Park City doctor describes treating COVID deniers, overburdened hospital conditions

‘Rather than hope, we’re seeing hate in their eyes’

The medical director of Park City Hospital at a recent Board of Health meeting described treating patients who deny they have COVID-19, demand specific treatments and sometimes violently resist care. “Rather than hope, we’re seeing hate in their eyes,” he says.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

At 4:15 p.m. Monday, after working an overnight shift the previous night, Dr. Wing Province reported to the Summit County Board of Health that patients coming into the Park City Hospital with COVID-19 are very different than they were earlier in the pandemic.

“Last year when patients came in, they had fear in their eyes. They looked to us for hope and help, and we provided that to them,” Province said. “And this time, we’re not being treated as ‘heroes.’ Rather than hope, we’re seeing hate in their eyes.”

Province, the medical director at Park City Hospital, described an overburdened intensive care unit that was expected to hit 150% utilization in coming weeks. He described patients hospitalized with COVID-19, more than 90% of whom are unvaccinated, doubting they have the disease, demanding certain treatments and sometimes violently resisting caregivers whom they believe want to do them harm.

“We had a gal who came in whose oxygen levels were critically low, to the point where she could nearly die if we didn’t give her oxygen. And as our nurses went to her aid to put on oxygen, to put in an IV and try to stabilize her, she being COVID-positive, spit in our nurse’s face, kicked our nurse in the chest with her foot and scratched all the technicians and everyone else that were coming in to try to put in an IV,” Province said.

He credited nurses and doctors for “turning the other cheek” and said many nurses — up to 20% in some places — had abandoned the career path as the pandemic enters its 19th month.

He said Park City Hospital was adding staff to its emergency department amid a surge in cases that was expected to grow.

“We just can’t keep up with the number of patients we’re seeing,” he said.

Dr. Wing Province, Park City Hospital medical director.
Courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare, which operates Park City Hospital, announced it was postponing all non-urgent surgeries and some other procedures at 13 of its hospitals starting Sept. 15 to reduce the pressure on intensive care units.

Summit County Health Director Phil Bondurant indicated the COVID-19 situation in Summit County is better than in the state as a whole, which he credited to the county’s high vaccination rate.

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Summit County had been growing from early July through late August, according to county data. It reached a plateau late last month and began to decline Aug. 31. The growth in cases statewide, however, has yet to plateau or decline.

The county is averaging nine to 10 new cases each day, Bondurant said, adding that officials were watching for a possible uptick after Labor Day.

In mid-August, former Health Director Rich Bullough said the county had been averaging about five cases per day through the summer. The first two weeks of August saw an average of eight cases per day.

Summit County is in the highest level on the state’s “transmission index” along with every other county but four. The index takes into account the state’s hospital capacity, the percent of tests in a county that are returning positive and the local case count. The county moved from moderate to high on Aug. 25.

According to county statistics, 82% of eligible people in Summit County have been fully vaccinated, while 93% have received at least one dose. Bondurant said that, unlike state numbers, the county’s statistics include people aged 12-16, and not just older adults.

Province said that two months ago, 98.5% of the people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Intermountain Healthcare system were unvaccinated. That number has since fallen to about 90%.

The people hospitalized with so-called breakthrough cases have underlying medical conditions or are older, Province said.

County officials said that booster shots have not been approved for use, though the county is preparing to help distribute them when that occurs. Nursing Director Derek Moss contrasted a booster shot with a third dose of vaccine, which he said has been approved for some people with severely weakened immune systems.

Province said some patients hospitalized with COVID-19 believe caregivers stand to gain financially by diagnosing them with COVID-19, or that caregivers seek to inject them with microchips.

He said one patient’s family was suing Intermountain Healthcare after the patient left the hospital against medical advice because caregivers refused to give him a specific medicine he asked for, Ivermectin.

Province said physicians use Ivermectin generally to treat parasites and that 21 professional societies are recommending against its use for COVID-19.

“Merck, the pharmaceutical company who produces this, who stands to make billions of dollars on this medicine, has come out and said ‘Do not use this medicine for the treatment of COVID-19,’ and we have individuals who are coming in and insisting that they receive it,” Province said.

He said that not all unvaccinated patients are skeptical of or resistant to care, but he said that for those that are, their family members are often similarly inclined and tend to ignore mask requirements or limited visitation rules.

He said the Park City Police Department has offered to visit the hospital to de-escalate any situation if necessary.

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