An El Paso nurse responded to El Paso Politics’ request for more information regarding the Lawanna Rivers viral video about the healthcare being delivered at the University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC). UMC has also acknowledged rationing medical care to patients.
Alfredo Corchado reported in That Dallas Morning News yesterday that “at least one top health official said hospitals are already rationing care,” in El Paso. El Paso is also transferring emergency room patients out of El Paso to other hospitals in Texas because of the Covid-19 crisis, according to Dr. Emilio Gonzalez Ayala, as quoted by Corchado. 
According to news reports, only El Paso hospitals seem to be rationing medical care. Utah hospitals “could start rationing care,” according to a CNN report from three weeks ago. El Paso Politics found no other hospital in the nation admitting to rationing medical care.
UMC Nurse Clarifies “The Pit”
A traveling nurse, Lawanna Rivers, recently posted a video on Facebook decrying the quality of care she says she witnessed at UMC. El Paso Politics reached out to other medical professionals asking for more information.
One nurse, who currently works at UMC, agreed to answer our questions provided that we do not name them. According to the nurse, they wished to remain anonymous because they “are not willing to risk problems” with their job. 
The nurse wrote that “the pit,” exists. Here is what the nurse told us:
“Yes, there is an area informally called ‘the Pit’.” The nurse continued, “it was called this because it is a large bay-like room similar to a pre-op.” They added, “the patients in there are the most critically acute of the covid patients.” They continued, “they are placed there because of the large layout of the room.” 
The UMC nurse continued, “every nurse has only 1 or 2 patients, and every nurse in there is in full PPE the entire time, if a critically acute patient codes there is no lag time in response to don PPE, and there are more nurses available immediately.” They continued, “for instance, there are 8 patients in there, so there could be anywhere from 4 to 8 nurses available within seconds to assist in the CPR.” 
El Paso Politics asked the nurse if the patients in “the pit” were treated differently than other patients at the hospital. The nurse replied that “every patient’s treatment is different.” 
They added, “if you are asking if some patients receive a lesser quality of care based on racial or economic status, the answer is absolutely not.” The nurse continued, “every patient’s care is carefully tailored to that patient’s unique medical situation.” 
El Paso Politics also asked if there are VIP patients at UMC. The nurse replied that “no, all patients are treated equally.” They added that there are “no special designations like that for anyone.” 
El Paso Politics also asked if doctors go into “the pit”. The nurse responded that “of course doctors go in the Pit, all the time.” 
The Nurse Offers A Message
The nurse also wrote that “the woman [Rivers] did not know what she was talking about and doesn’t appear to understand the nature of working in an ICU,” adding that, “she was speaking while traumatized from the suffering and death she witnessed and was unprepared for.” 
The UMC nurse concluded, “it is disappointing that people are so quick to believe some random woman on the internet without question.” The nurse added, “our healthcare workers are exhausted and demoralized, and now they have to endure allegations of racism and malpractice at their hospital.” 
El Paso Politics will continue to monitor this story and will report new information as we receive it. We are also trying to contact Lawanna Rivers to ask her questions about her video.
- Alfredo Corchado, “El Paso hospital officials says care is being rationed as county judge rallies support for shutdown during COVID-19 crisis,” The Dallas Morning News, November 16, 2020.
- Email exchange with author on November 16, 2020. El Paso Politics has agreed to not name the nurse because of the nature of the discussion.
Please provide the actual quote of a UMC official saying they are rationing care. I would bet no such thing exists. Transferring patients to other cities is no big deal. It is better than leaving somebody neglected on a stretcher because no bed is available in the hospital. I’m not always the biggest fan of local health care but let’s give them credit for having a system in place to get patients cared for, even if it means sending them elsewhere.
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