Health and Fitness

Report: Filipina Nurse Who Died of COVID-19 Treated Patient Without N95 Mask

A nurses' union filed a complaint on her behalf with the California Health Department.
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The Filipina nurse who died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles treated a patient without proper protective equipment, specifically an N95 mask. 

A report in the Los Angeles Times said that Celia Marcos was covered only in a thin surgical mask when she began treating a man who was admitted to the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center after he stopped breathing last April 3. Finding a much more protective N95 mask would have taken time, which the man didn’t have.

Marcos, who started working at the hospital in 2004, was a charge nurse in a ward that accepted COVID-19 patients when the main coronavirus units were full. This was why N95 masks weren’t regularly given to staff in that ward and were being reserved for those treating patients in the main COVID ward.

Marcos reportedly stayed in the man’s room for about 30 minutes while he was being resucitated. The patient was eventually placed on a ventilator. It was Marcos who strapped on an oxygen mask on the patient.

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The nurse reportedly put hand sanitizer in her hair and showered as soon as she got home, acoording to a text message she sent to her niece after treating the patient.

But three days later, Marcos began feeling sick. On April 11, she developed a headache and had trouble breathing. Her eldest son Donald Jay Marcos told her to see a doctor.

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By April 15, Marcos was in a hospital bed at Hollywood Presbyterian, where she told her son she had developed pneumonia in both lungs. The 61-year-old had no prior medical conditions besides high blood pressure, for which she was taking medication. The same day, she tested positive for COVID-19.

She died two days later. 

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“Celia was called to a COVID-19 isolation room while wearing only a surgical mask—not the required N95 respirator, gown, face shield, and booties that her hospital should have given her for her protection,” said nurses union SEIU 121 President Nina Wells in a statement to the LA Times. “Now we know she gave her life to try to save a life.”

Nurse union representatives in a complaint filed last week with the California health department claimed that nurses who took care of Marcos said a doctor refused to provide necessary care, including intubation to help her breathe, “prior to her ultimate demise from COVID19,” according to documents reviewed by The Times.

But hospital officials have denied that Marcos treated COVID patients without proper protective gear.

“Despite these efforts, and our commitment to following all guidelines, we still lost one of our own to this terrible virus, and we feel this loss very deeply,” administrators said in a statement to the newspaper.

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The LA Times report said Marcos was known “for her sweet nature and ability to heal rifts and remain cool-headed, no matter the situation.”

She was also called Ate by Filipino collegues in the hospital.

California is one of the hardest-hit states by the coronavirus in the US, with over 66,000 cases and 2,745 deaths as of May 10. Over all the US has recorded 1.36 million cases and 80,547 deaths. 

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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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