In this interview, retired Army combat veteran Erin Marie Olszewski, a nurse who for several months treated COVID-19 patients at the Elmhurst Hospital Center, a public hospital in Queens, New York — the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.
She has now written a book, "Undercover Epicenter Nurse: How Fraud, Negligence, and Greed Led to Unnecessary Deaths at Elmhurst Hospital,"1 which details her experiences.
Olszewski was born in Michigan and raised in a small Wisconsin town and joined the military at 17. When 9/11 happened, she was in basic training. "I was only 18 years old so I grew up pretty quickly," she says.
Altogether, she was stationed in Iraq for just over a year. Upon her return to the U.S., she worked at the Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, before leaving the military and going into nursing. Just a bit over 20 years ago, July 2000, I read a study by Dr. Barbara Starfield2 published in JAMA. It contained stats that identified physicians as the third leading cause of death.Undercover Epicenter N...Olszewski, Erin MarieBuy New $24.29(as of 02:20 EDT - Details)
I created that headline in July 2000, which took off as a meme and spread across the world. In a shocking follow-up to Starfield's article, in 2012 her husband wrote a disturbing article in the Archives of Internal Medicine3 about her death, pointing to a drug she was taking as a possible contributor to it.
"Specialization, fragmentation, drug-orientation and profit-seeking help make American medical care the most expensive in the world, but not the safest or most effective," Dr. Neil A. Holtzman wrote. "The lessons from Barbara's death should be put in the perspective of the millions who cannot afford even basic services in our expensive system and suffer as a result."
As if that's not egregious enough, newer death statistics reveal the situation has only gotten worse over the years, and Olszewski's experience during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates just how much more dangerous medicine has become.
"I did go into this profession to help people … [but] it did not take me long to realize that we're literally just pumping our patients full of medications. Most of my job was morning meds, afternoon meds, night meds … [and] tests.
I've always had a passion for more of a natural approach to health and it was devastating to me to realize that I wasn't really helping these patients, I was contributing to the problem," Olszewski says.
"I always had that mindset as a nurse: How can I get these patients to look through these meds and talk to the doctors and advocate for them to get them off of all this?
I would hit a lot of roadblocks and so I ended up going to work at a private practice where doctors were more concerned about not so much profit, but the people. I always continued along those lines. Fast forward to this year, we were essentially laid off from our jobs.
In Florida, we did it right. We didn't ban any of the alternative treatments. They left it up to individual hospitals to make up their own minds, so that's why we were very successful, whereas New York was not."
Medical Negligence Was the Norm
As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, New York, being a hotspot, was in desperate need for skilled nurses, so Olszewski ended up volunteering and went to work at Elmhurst in April 2020. "It was still extremely packed in these hospitals with pretty much every single person on a ventilator," she says.
Curiously, when she got there, she was told she'd have to wait days for her assignment. Normally, in times of war, you're expected to immediately get to work. This was the first red flag suggesting all was not as it seemed. Some of the nurses had waited in hotel rooms for 18 days before they received their assignments.