UCLA critical care doctor suggests his patience is running thin for people who refuse to get vaccinated

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The new COVID surge is pushing medical workers to their limits, says UCLA’s Dr. Russell Buhr. “We had a few very good months. And over the last few weeks, we've seen that trend reverse pretty quickly.” Photo by Shutterstock.

Many of us were hoping to relax this summer to reap the benefits of  COVID-19 vaccines — after making a lot of sacrifices over the past year and a half. But instead, California is facing A surge of cases due to the spread of the Delta variant. In Los Angeles County, COVID hospitalizations have doubled in just two weeks.

Dr. Russell Buhr, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at UCLA, tells KCRW this is the last thing overworked health care workers need.   

“As this drags on, a lot of people are saying they can't handle this level of stress and work anymore. We've had multiple Intensive Care Unit nurses who were years and years into their career decide to retire early. We've had physicians leave working in the ICU because they didn't feel like it was a safe place for them anymore under the circumstances.”

Buhr says that burnbout bodes poorly for people who are getting sick and ending up in the hospital now.

“During this pandemic, the most limited resource is not ventilators, masks, vaccines or medicine. It's really the human capital that makes the health care system work. And we've put an astronomical burden on the people that take care of us when we're sick.”

That burden has been exacerbated by the refusal of a significant chunk of the eligible population to get vaccinated. It’s a source of great frustration for Buhr and his colleagues. He blames misinformation about the vaccines.

“The right people to talk to you are your trusted health practitioners, your physician, your nurse practitioner, and your pharmacist. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not the right places. If you're not sure about making a personal health decision, get your information from somebody that is trained to do this.”

Buhr says the pandemic is not over by a longshot. Although new infections and hospitalizations are not at the levels seen during the winter surge, he says the emergence of the Delta variant means many people will continue to get sick if they don’t get vaccinated, and die needlessly.

“I have seen lots of patients come into the hospital very sick, who didn't need to be that sick. We will always see patients who are being put on life support, who don't know if they're ever going to be able to talk to their families again. You don't really know when you start that machine if someone's going to survive or not. And that's why I've been encouraging patients to get vaccinated — whatever motivation you need.”

Los Angeles County public health officials said almost every patient who is hospitalized for COVID-19 was unvaccinated as of Thursday, July 22.



Chery Glaser


Darrell Satzman