Traveling Nurse Says Doctors At El Paso Hospital Left Covid Patients To Die In Area Called The “Pit”

The traveling nurse, a woman named Lawanna Rivers, spoke about her experience helping other nurses at the University Medical Center of El Paso in a viral video.

The video of a traveling nurse recounting her traumatizing experience working at a hospital in El Paso to help covid-19 patients has gone viral as covid-related deaths are overwhelming the Texas city.

In the video, the nurse, who has since been identified as Lawanna Rivers, talks about her time assisting other nurses with helping covid patients recover at the University Medical Center of El Paso. The video was recorded on Facebook Live November 8. One of the more unsettling parts of Rivers’ video was where she talked about having to work in a part of the hospital called the “pit,” where she, along with three other nurses, were in charge of taking care of covid patients that were essentially sent to the area to die.

“My first day at orientation, I was told that whatever patients go into the pit, they only come out in a body bag,” Rivers said, according to a report from Business Insider.

Rivers also recounted how doctors wouldn’t enter the area out of fear of contracting the virus, despite the nurses having 12-hour shifts in the area. She also recounted how a dead body was wheeled into her unit because the morgue was full.

“The doctors don’t even step foot in those COVID rooms to see those patients,” she said at one point, only to revisit it again later on in the video, saying: “We as nurses, it’s OK for us to be exposed, but you as doctors, you don’t even come in there. You can’t get exposed, but we can, and you all are making all the money.”

The nurse also provided instances of unequal treatment among patients, recalling how a patient who was the wife of a doctor at the hospital received better care than others, even being referred to as the “VIP” patient among another nurse overseeing the woman.

“They pulled out all the stops for that woman — it was nothing that they didn’t do for that woman,” Rivers said. “And guess what? She was the one patient that made it out of the ICU alive and was able to downgrade to a long-term acute care. So you mean to tell me because she’s a doctor’s wife, her life meant more than any of those other patients?”

Rivers was supposed to stay until November 20 but left early because of what she experienced while helping at the hospital, saying at one point in the video, “I had never experienced anything like this before in my entire life.” Traveling to El Paso was her fifth covid deployment, and the third Texas city she had provided help at, having provided help in Corpus Christi and Eagle Pass.

The University Medical Center of El Paso has since issued a statement to local news outlets addressing the video, saying:

After watching the video, while we cannot fully verify the events expressed, we empathize and sympathize with the difficult, physical, and emotional toll that this pandemic takes on thousands of healthcare workers here and throughout our country. This particular travel nurse was at UMC briefly to help El Paso confront the surge of COVID-19 patients.

This comes as El Paso has been hard hit by the coronavirus. On November 8, Texas had reported that the state had 5,404 new cases, with almost 2,000 of those cases coming from the El Paso area. The overwhelming amount of covid-related deaths in the city has even led to inmates from the El Paso County Detention Facility being drafted to move deceased bodies into mobile morgues, with inmates being paid two dollars an hour to move the bodies for eight hours every day. Following outrage from the community against the practice, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has since said he wants to get the Texas National Guard to take over.

Elijah C. Watson

Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When he's not writing he's listening to Sade and crying or watching My Hero Academia with his partner.

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Elijah C. Watson

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