PHOENIX — An Arizona ICU nurse does not mince words when detailing what work and life are like during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tough shifts and a potential surge that he fears will only get worse.
"As soon as I park, I have very low expectations these days," said Eddy De La Torre, a nurse at a Phoenix-area hospital. "It sucks to say that but it's just bad all around."
De La Torre said staffing continues to be one of the biggest challenges given the increase in patients.
"The biggest issue is surrounding staffing," he said. "Staffing in a sense that with the amount of patients that are in the hospital, we're finding it harder and harder to find ways to provide each patient a nurse in the safest manner possible."
He also described seeing extremely sick patients, and a staff that is feeling the effects of working on the front lines for months.
"We're exhausted, man," he said. "We're exhausted."
As ICU beds become a scarce resource around the state, De La Torre told ABC15 those beds are in low supply at this hospital. As of Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Service's dashboard there were 9% of ICU beds available.
"It's very few," he said. "And it's smaller and smaller every day."
Also on Wednesday, ASU Biodesign Institute Executive Director Dr. Joshua LaBaer said a peak of the current surge may not come until late January or early February.
"I hope they're wrong," De La Torre said. "If that is the case, then we're going to be in for a rude awakening because that's going to be bad because right now it's horrible."
He also told KNXV-TV that fellow staff members are stretched thin and working to handle the uptick in patients.
"I wish I can tell you that I've been able to talk to a COVID patient," he said. "The last few times I've worked on that unit all my patients have been intubated and the majority of the patients in the ICU are intubated and really sick."
He also talked about the ripple effect the surge has across the hospital.
"Oftentimes we get told, especially in our staffing meetings, that we have A, B and C patients waiting for rooms," he said. "They can be waiting for a couple hours."
In the ICU, with visitor restrictions in place, De La Torre noted the mental toll this takes on front-line workers and the patients, both COVID and non-COVID, with family support left to come only via an iPad.
"The tears are back," he said. "Doesn't seem like they're going anywhere."
This article was written by Mike Pelton for KNXV.