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A Healthcare Provider’s Plea: Hollywood, We Need Your Help With Coronavirus (Guest Column)

Coronavirus patients are moved from the
Robin Utrecht/Shutterstock

Hollywood, we need your help.

The shows you make and the movies you produce often shine a light on the events around us. They help us make sense of the world and they highlight those moments of heroism and hope that lift our spirits during the darkest of times. But right now, we need more than your artistry. Right now, we need your action.

Here’s the reality: Nurses, doctors and all healthcare providers are used to supplying care in the toughest of situations. We are accustomed to working 80-plus hours a week, making tough decisions, and putting our patients and families interests above our own. The healthcare provider community is defined by its compassion, resilience and sacrifice. But, we have never faced anything like the coronavirus.

Providers are having to take care of patients with limited personal protective equipment, and what we have now is dwindling.

We are reusing masks that we normally would not reuse. We are avoiding eating and drinking during our shifts for fear of needing to touch the masks and contaminating ourselves. N95 respirators that we typically use for any potential airborne infections are being conserved only for the highest risk procedures. What’s most anxiety-provoking is what the next few weeks will bring. We have so little now, will we have any protection as the surge of coronavirus patients continues?

We are hearing about colleagues around the country who already have become infected, those who are in critical condition on ventilators, and our hearts sink. We know what their families are going through, we know that this means fewer patients may get care, and we worry about what this means for us as we prepare for our next shift on the frontlines.

That’s what we are faced with, and we are writing this not to scare folks, but to ask for help from one of the most creative, innovative, inspirational sectors of society- entertainers. Here’s what we are asking:

We need you to lead by example and to motivate your fans to comply with social distance.

Lots of entertainers are already posting on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram about their isolation and social distancing experiences, and bolstering their fans with heartening messages. We need more of this, and we need young folks in particular to understand the seriousness of what we are dealing with. Directed outreach to fans about why crowds on beaches, for example, are a bad idea may motivate them to behave more responsibly. Sharing examples of providers on the front lines on a daily basis, can humanize the struggle.

We need you to donate what you have and encourage others to donate personal protective equipment/ sanitizer/supplies.

We need personal protective equipment, specifically masks, N95 respirators, sanitizer, gloves, gowns, now. We need you to donate what you have to your local hospitals and share your donation experiences with others. We also need you to encourage your fans, co-workers, family members to donate whatever they have in terms of needed supplies to their local hospitals. Even a small donation of 10 or 20 masks can help a whole unit of providers protect themselves for a shift. A small donation of hand sanitizer may mean days of providers being able to employ recommended practices of hand hygiene and protect themselves and patients.

You may have contacts in the nail industry, hairdressers, makeup artists who have these supplies. Please encourage them to donate as much as they can. TV shows such as “Pose,” “Station 19,” “The Good Doctor,” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have donated the masks, gowns and gloves they once used as props to medical workers and hospitals in need. If there are supplies left over from other medical dramas sitting around in a storehouse, it’s time to dust them off and ship them out.

We need you think of creative solutions to produce personal protective equipment/ sanitizer/ supplies.

This is a big one. Your industry is incredibly resourceful and creative. Your connections are expansive. Please work with partners in the fashion industry, alcohol beverage industry, and product development to think about how masks, gloves, gowns, sanitizer can be produced to protect providers. Already, some fashion designers have stepped up like Christian Siriano, who is having his team work on mask production for New York City. The Costume Designers Guild has also stepped up to encourage its members to sew masks. Frankly, we need all hands-on deck from the fashion industry. Similarly, if you own or partner with a consumer goods production company, please think about ways you can help. Finally, there are many celebrities with their own liquor brands. Well, alcohol producers and distributors, there are small distilleries already repurposing alcohol for hand sanitizers and donating to hospitals. Please consider whether your vodka or gin line could follow suit.

We need you to utilize your international connections to find and distribute supplies.

You are among the most connected individuals in this country and around the world. There are solutions to this supply chain crunch that involve reaching out to contacts in other countries. Please leverage any and all connections you have to help with production and distribution. If you have partners and friends in other countries that have supply, ask about donations.

We need you to build awareness and advocate with local, state and federal governments, until this crisis abates.

Finally, we will be involved in this crisis for the coming weeks, if not months. Building and maintaining awareness during this critical period will be crucial. We need your help to bolster spirits and inspire others to care about what’s happening in our hospitals and healthcare centers. This also means advocating with all levels of government and continuing to voice concerns.

We will continue to care for you, your families and loved ones. We are not embarrassed to say, we need some help and support right now.

In the 1940s, during the darkest days of World War II, Hollywood went to war — making movies that clearly articulated what was at stake in that global conflict and stirring American citizens to action. Today, the demands are different, as are the dangers. But a similar commitment to the greater good has never been more urgently needed. Please do your part.

Stay safe Hollywood.

Dr. Mallika Mendu is a practicing nephrologist and Medical Director for Quality and Safety at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. In addition, she is the director for quality improvement for the Brigham and Women’s Nephrology Division and associate medical director of the Partners Population Health Management. The views expressed in this piece those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of her employers.