Nurse dies after treating COVID-19 patient

The family of a nurse who passed away after contracting COVID-19 said she was not provided with proper PPE while caring for coronavirus patients. 

Celia Marcos, 61, passed away on April 17 from COVID-19. She worked as a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center since 2004. Three years prior, she immigrated to the U.S. with her family. Her son, Donald Jay Marcos, who lives in Dubai, said she had been a nurse for four decades before passing. 

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"[For my mom], when the call of duty came, she will do the best that she could. That's why everybody loves her because she is devoted in her field," said Donald. 

Donald said his mom had high blood pressure and had no other underlying health issues. He said he found out about her illness on April 11.  

"She told me she was not feeling well since last Tuesday, April 7, and we did a video call at that time and I asked her about what happened to her," said Donald. 

Donald said she had a headache, body aches, and trouble breathing, and on April 15, she developed pneumonia in her lungs. 

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"In an instant, I cried and told her 'Mama be strong, you can do it, and when you get out of that hospital, you will retire immediately,' and she replied to me, yes. She cannot talk that much because she cannot breathe that much and was even crying too," said Donald. 

Donald said his mother "coded seven times" before passing away. He said she was caring for a COVID-19 patient before contracting the virus and was not given the proper PPE. He said she did not receive an N95 mask. 

Nurses across SoCal are concerned about the lack of PPE available to them. 

"It's a huge problem. As a matter of fact, every day we work, we have issues with PPE because of this pandemic. They [Kaiser Permanente on Sunset] were only giving us one mask, and we were supposed to use the same mask on different patients," said Tinny Abogado, a nurse.  

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Abogado said some of the nurses in her unit have contracted the virus. 

"It's very scary. We have at least one nurse in my unit alone that became COVID positive," said Abogado.

Devika Wijesinghe, a hospice nurse, is also fearful.  

"It's really scary for us, and up until the first week of April,  we were given no masks at all. It feels like we're having to beg all the time to get the equipment and to validate that need. What we've been dealing with has been absolutely, incredibly emotionally hard for us," said Wijesinghe.

Wijesinghe said the passing of Celia Marcos is devastating for her colleagues, though she did not work with her personally.

"I think what everyone feels [the nurses] is we might be the next Celia and we need to stop this before there are more casualties. This is about life and death," said Wijesinghe. 

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center sent a statement regarding Celia's death:

CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC) is united with its frontline staff in the battle against COVID-19. Celia Marcos personifies the commitment to patient care that is embedded in the culture at HPMC, and we are proud to have called her one of our own for over 16 years.

With this in mind, it is disappointing to see false allegations and inaccurate statements being made in the media that are not grounded in the facts.  HPMC has conducted detailed investigations and contact tracing of its employees, and to date, there have been no employees with a positive COVID-19 test who have been exposed to the virus in the context of responding to a Code Blue for a COVID-19 patient at HPMC. HPMC is proud of our commitment to providing staff with PPE per CDC guidelines, which is how we have kept our hundreds of frontline workers safe during this pandemic.

In addition, HPMC has taken a proactive approach to universally test all patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19, so that we can use these test results as the basis for cohorting patients.  Through diligent advanced planning, we have never encountered a situation where our COVID-19 units are full.  At HPMC, we do not admit any patient suspected of COVID-19 to a non-COVID-19 unit, and we do not permit any transfer of patients from COVID-19 rooms to a non-COVID-19 unit without first having a negative COVID-19 test result. Statements made that “a man with COVID-19 had stopped breathing” and that “Celia was called to a COVID-19 isolation room” are categorically false, misinformed, and defamatory.

The fact remains that there is community transmission of COVID-19 between asymptomatic people in Los Angeles, which underscores the importance of the Mayor’s “Safer at Home” Emergency Order, and the need for a cautious and phased approach to reopening.

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