A New York man went to three hospitals trying to get treatment for his breathing issues before dying of COVID-19, The New York Times reports. Luis Arellano’s story illustrates the difficulties faced by healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey when it comes to treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Arellano, 65, began feeling what he believed were symptoms of COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago. First, he went to a Brooklyn hospital, only to be told to come back if his condition grew worse. A few days later, he had gotten worse, so his family took him to a different hospital, this time in New Jersey. They waited eight hours, only to be told it would be seven to nine more hours before he could be seen, so they went home.
By this time, the coronavirus had “ravaged” his body.
His family took him to a third hospital, where he was finally admitted. However, by that time, it was too late. After five days in the hospital, he died of cardiac arrest.
Two days earlier, he’d gotten confirmation that he’d tested positive for COVID-19.
As it turns out, Arellano’s case is something of a metaphor for one of the major issues facing the healthcare system when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare officials must make split-second decisions — often on the basis of limited information — about who is sick enough with the disease to require lifesaving care and who could be sent home to recuperate.
Complicating the matter is the fact that the disease can progress remarkably quickly in some patients. Someone can go from having relatively mild symptoms to being in need of critical care in a matter of days.
Arellano’s family said they spent those precious days trying valiantly to get care for him.
“It was a week of constantly having to fight for him to get in. Eventually he did, but it was too late,” Arellano’s son, Carlos Arellano, said.
Whether or not Arellano’s case is an extreme example of the difficulties some COVID-19 patients face in getting care is a matter of dispute. Mark Levine, the chairman of the New York City Council’s health committee, alleged in early April that hospitals were turning people away, including people with respiratory symptoms. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals, both strongly denied hospitals in the city were turning anyone away.
“Saying that our hospitals would turn away someone with pneumonia is irresponsible, inaccurate and unfair,” De Blasio said.