Staff at University Hospital in Newark frustrated with COVID patient deaths

NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Nurses went from room to room at University Hospital in Newark Tuesday checking to see which COVID patients are getting better and which are not.

There is a price for seeing so much slow, agonizing death.

Doctor Andrew Berman is a pulmonologist in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, and he admits it can be frustrating because the vast majority of the patients he sees who die are unvaccinated.

"It's sad that many of these patients, their situations could have been averted by getting the vaccine," said Berman. "Most of our patients in the ICU with critical illness are unvaccinated patients. And that part does take a toll on all of us, when we see people who we know didn't have to be there."

Treatments have improved, but severe COVID still kills more than any illness any intensive care unit is likely to see.

"It is a possibility with all patients that they may pass that and that's not necessarily something we would see with other illnesses," said Berman.

Doctor Carl Kirton Chief of Nursing at University Hospital says its been difficult on the ICU staff experiencing the same outcome over and over.

"They're tired, they feel stressed by all of the hard work that they have to do," said Kirton. "Sometimes we've had people cry, be emotional about it. We've seen much more depression in this group. And then people that have just given up and walking away and say I've had enough."

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Patients start to rethink the vaccine, Dr. Berman says, about the time they start to have trouble breathing.

"Their degree of freedom really starts to be challenged and also their ability to move about starts to be challenged and its really at that point that people start to do some reflection," said Berman.

Not yet in the ICU, but in the rest of the hospital, COVID numbers are dropping again and that is lightening the burden.

The decline has given everybody here a chance to regroup a little, but nobody here is confident it will last.

"To be honest I'm expecting the numbers to go up again at some point because that's what we've seen several times already and there's no reason to expect that it won't happen again," said Berman.

Dr. Berman says he hopes people who haven't yet will heed the science and get vaccinated.

"It's really showing some respect for this virus who shows no respect for anybody else," said Berman.

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