Posted on April 2, 2020

Please, Stop Shooting. We Need the Beds.

Elinore Kaufman, New York Times, April 1, 2020

My pager goes off again: The police are en route to my hospital. They’re bringing a gunshot victim. E.T.A.? Right now.

I get these pages almost every night at the trauma center where I work. I rush to put on my protective equipment to guard against blood and other bodily fluids. But for the first time, I’m saving clean masks to reuse them. {snip}

Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.

Firearm injuries are calamitous for the more than 120,000 people shot each year in the United States and their families. But the consequences for our health system are even more dire as we fight the coronavirus.

We need I.C.U. beds, we need ventilators, we need personnel to care for the wave of Covid-19 patients. But gunshot victims are now fighting for space and resources inside America’s overcrowded I.C.U.s.

{snip} There were more than 120 shootings in Philadelphia last month, according to the city. Our team has taken care of 11 patients injured by bullets over the last seven days alone. {snip}

As our I.C.U.s fill up with patients struggling to breathe, we look around and ask: Can we save a bed, can we save two beds, for the gunshot victims we know are coming next? {snip}

Other cities are seeing similar problems. Mayor Jack Young of Baltimore issued a plea to his city last month: Save hospital resources for Covid-19 patients by putting your guns down. {snip}

We don’t yet know how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect gun violence. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, crime is down overall since social distancing mandates went into effect. But shootings have not slowed and even may be increasing.


We love taking care of patients, but each patient injured by firearms admitted to the intensive care unit is its own tragedy. Every one of these I.C.U. admissions is preventable, because every one of these injuries is preventable.


{snip} So please, stop shooting. We need the beds.