Note: as you read this tale, please be aware that I will not be linking to Erin Marie Olszewski’s movie, book, or any interviews she has done. I assume you are here because you have seen something about them. As such, we do not need to give them more traffic. The point of this blog post is to explain what Erin Marie Olszewski did and why she is so very wrong. I watched her video myself and the points herein are an aggregate of my thoughts as well as those of others.
One of the greatest tragedies of the American response to the SARS-COV-2 pandemic (aka COVID19) has been the paranoid pseudoscience crowd’s elaborate cherry picking of science, ideas, and evidence. One such purveyor of misinformation is Erin Marie Olszewski, a registered nurse from Florida USA. Erin spent weeks at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens New York City, called by some “the epicenter” of the American COVID19 pandemic, as a temporary nurse in various units in that hospital. She originally went because she thought the pandemic a hoax and wanted to expose “the truth” but quickly found the pandemic to be very real. She then changed her focus to be how patients were managed in New York City hospitals. In her documentary, she claims patients were mistreated, to the point of being murdered. COVID19 hit New York City hospitals very hard. By May 2, 2020, a total of 13,831 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19–associated deaths, and 5,048 probable COVID-19–associated deaths were recorded in NYC. Hospitals were overwhelmed but there is no evidence supporting Erin’s ideas that patients were mistreated or ignored for profit. Doctors and nurses who traveled to NYC went there to help. Erin is the only one who traveled to NYC to wear hidden camera glasses and make a documentary based on false facts.
With a documentary deal with Journeyman Pictures and a book deal with Skyhorse Publishing on the line, she switched over to using her hidden camera glasses to document what she feels is horrible care received by patients at Elmhurst. She filmed patients, their chart information, discussions with other healthcare providers, and more, without telling anyone what she was doing or asking permission, all to document what she calls murder. In her mind, patients at Elmhurst were intubated too quickly and put on ventilators only for profit and healthcare providers did not care about the patients at all. She is also highly critical of decisions made by doctors and other healthcare providers at Elmhurst and assumes she knows more about how to treat COVID19 patients than anyone else. Since the movie and book came out, she has made the rounds of low-brow, conspiracy shows like The Highwire with Del Bigtree.
For several months now, a team of science advocates and I have been combing through her Facebook posts, reading and watching her interviews, watching her film, and following her in the media. We have carefully compiled information and evidence to show who Erin Marie is and why what she says in her movie and book is dangerous misinformation. This is a long story and this blogpost is just a summary of the basic facts. More posts, with more details, will follow. *
So who is Erin Marie Olszewski and why did she go to NYC? Why did she make a movie and write a book and what is she accusing Elmhurst Hospital of doing wrong?
Erin Marie Olszewski is a registered nurse from Florida. Public records of her license background show she originally was licensed in Wisconsin and then moved to Florida and become licensed there. It is unclear how much she has worked as a nurse in Florida. She is also an Army veteran, having enlisted in 2000 and remaining active for about 7 years. She spent time in Iraq and became a nurse upon returning to USA. There is no documented evidence she had any advanced training or experience working in an emergency department or critical care unit.
She is the mother of three young boys, one of whom she claims regressed into autism after a vaccine. She is a passionate antivaxxer and founded two groups: Florida Freedom Alliance and Nurses for Vaccine Safety Alliance, Inc. Looking at their Facebook activity, FFA’s objective has been to thwart legislative attempts in Florida to pass any vaccine bills and NVSA seems to be a group of people who question scientific consensus. In the past few years, she has attended ACIP meetings, one of which I detail in this post, to ask that the connection between autism and vaccines be studied more. Of course, savvy readers know vaccines do not cause autism.
During the height of the pandemic in New York City, Erin contracted with Krucial Staffing to spend weeks in a NYC hospital as a temporary nurse. Krucial is a temporary agency which staffs various professions, including sending medical professionals into areas hard hit by COVID19. Hundreds of nurses from all over the USA were brought with the promise that they would make up $10,000 a week in hard hit hospitals. Erin was sent to Elmhurst Hospital, considered by many to the be epicenter of the NYC outbreak because of how busy they were and how many deaths they saw. Many doctors and nurses are returning home from spending time in NYC and sharing harrowing and tragic stories of a city overwhelmed by COVID19 and of hospitals struggling to manage a novel disease with all the knowledge they could muster. Most stories are supportive of the hospital system and acknowledge the complexity of the disease.
“It was definitely overwhelming, nothing like any health care provider has seen in their lifetime,” she said. “I’ve seen death constantly, I’ve seen death frequently, but to this magnitude? Never.”
Elmhurst Hospital, where Erin was sent, is located in the Queens Borough of New York City. Queens struggles with not enough health resources to meet needs. Queens is a very diverse borough, with almost half of residents being foreign born.
“Queens has 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 5.3 in Manhattan. Typically serving what the health care industry calls an “unfavorable payer mix” and as a result dependent on government funding, public hospitals often lack the resources of the parallel nonpublic hospital system in New York City.”
“Yet health care workers and community leaders say it is indisputable that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Hispanic day laborers, restaurant workers and cleaners who make up the largest share of the population in an area often celebrated as one of the most diverse places on earth. Latinos comprise 34 percent of the deaths in New York City, the largest share for any racial or ethnic group, according to data released by state officials on Wednesday.
The neighborhoods also have large communities of Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Filipino and Nepali people, and a score of other ethnicities that have been devastated by the pandemic.
The city-run Elmhurst Hospital Center was one of the earliest and hardest-hit by the virus. Dozens of Covid-19 patients have clogged hallways as they wait for beds, terrified, alone and often unable to communicate in English.”
No one doubts that Elmhurst, amongst other hard hit hospitals in less areas of USA, struggled with COVID19 patients during a time when little was known about the novel coronavirus and personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply. No one doubts they struggled with so many patients that they sometimes had to bring in doctors and nurses and other health professionals who did not have the experience or the advanced training in infectious diseases or intensive care units. No one doubts that they struggled with whether and how and when to intubate patients and whether or not to use drugs like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). Doctors and nurses struggle with making the right decisions for patients on an average day. To be working during a pandemic, when the hospital is full of patients who almost all have a NOVEL (new) kind of virus, makes the job even harder. But, they still try hard to keep their patients alive. Erin spends the entire film arguing that HCQ should be given to patients, even arguing with doctors about it, and that patients were being intubated too fast for nothing more than simple anxiety. No one, no doctor on earth, would put a patient on a ventilator for anxiety. Erin obviously does not understand the SARS-COV-2 (COVID19) virus and how it presents.
To quote ZdoggMD, from his excellent analysis of her video, what Erin did with her video and book is become a “criminal, unprofessional con artist” in spreading misinformation and lies, to fit her predetermined agenda, in a time when people are getting sick and dying because they refuse to follow medical advice to maskup and practice social distancing. Her video and book have the purpose of instilling doubt in the minds of people who are already very concerned about the quality of medical care in America.
So, here are her points:
- She claims people who test negative to COVID19 are put in same area of the hospital as people who test positive, thereby exposing them to COVID19 and making them more sick. In reality, up to 40% of negative COVID19 tests will be false. When a person comes into a hospital with symptoms of COVID19 and the test comes back false, they are often indicated as a presumptive covid patient because that leads their treatment plan. If 40% of negative tests are actually positive, you need to treat the symptoms not just the test results. If the symptoms match COVID, of course the patient is going to be put in a covid unit, particularly when the hospital is full to bursting. Erin’s claim that the hospital negligently gave people covid is a conspiracy theory not backed up by actual evidence.
- She claims the hospital is coding patients as positive to make money off them. Erin claims Medicare pays the hospital $29,000 for each patient who is diagnosed as positive for COVID19 and placed on a ventilator. She seems to believe $29K is enough money for Elmhurst to be coding them this way on purpose to make a profit. However, a patient in ICU will cost the hospital much more than $29,000 in care. For example, after 62 days in the hospital with COVID19, a Washington man’s bill was $1.1 million. Erin fails to mention what an actual COVID19 patient costs the hospital because this is merely a conspiracy theory of hers. Again, this idea is not backed by real evidence.
- She claims the doctors and residents are incompetent. At one point in the movie, Erin is heard arguing with a cardiac critical care fellow, a medical school graduate who is spending a year learning advanced care in Cardiac Surgery, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, Anesthesiology and Surgical Critical Care. Meaning Erin tries to argue about what patients need with a person in training to be an expert. The doctor is heard patiently explaining to Erin why her ideas are not valid but instead of learning, as one would hope a nurse with no documented experience in critical care would do, Erin continues to berate and harass this fellow, as well as other doctors in the hospital. It is remarkably unprofessional to harass people with more expertise than you. Instead of making a film and writing a book, if Erin were truly concerned about patients she could have taken her claims to the media or the federal government, as a true whistleblower. There are actual standards for how to take care of COVID19 patients, but Erin does not present that information in the film. Erin’s goal was not to save lives, however, but to manufacture a controversy. Both of these screenshots are from very early into her NYC stay. As you can see, she went to NYC with a clear agenda to defame and libel the hospital and doctors and not with the intent of helping people.
- Erin presumes hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), along with zinc and vitamin C, should be given to all patients. Having spent time reading her posts on Facebook now for several months, I understand she got some these ideas from disgraced former researcher Judy Mikovitz. Mikovitz came out with her own conspiracy video about COVID19 before Erin’s came out but the theme is similar: conspiracy, cherry picking evidence, treatments being hidden from public. We know, from reading many of Erin’s comments on her Facebook page, that she reveres Judy and spends time talking with her almost daily. We also know Judy espouses some crazy ideas about COVID19, all of which are easily debunked. HCQ is not currently recommendedfor COVID19 treatment, after a great deal of research done this spring, but Erin is unaware of that fact.
- She also claimed patients were sent to nursing homes with active COVID19 infection and that led to high death rate in those places. However, as has been said time and again by Governor Cuomo, nursing homes were refusing to receive healthy and stable patients at a fear of COVID outbreaks in their facilities. so New York State made it so that patients who were stable and past the window of transmission of COVID were to be accepted by nursing homes. This was very important because we needed to keep the beds in the hospital free to take care of new and acute patients. There was a report recently done that showed that the patients who left the hospital to go into the nursing homes were not the cause of the nursing home outbreaks.
- The most egregious of her actions, portrayed in the film, is the filming of patients and their medical records without permission. This is a clear violation of the health privacy law, HIPAA, and she has been reported by multiple people for having done so. Only someone without a conscience could film people at their most vulnerable, without permission, and film their medical records for her own use. Her goal was to make herself fame and make money. Her actions should, we hope, lead to a huge fine and the loss of her nurse license in all states. That she could violate her patients’ privacy in such a way proves her motives were purely selfish.
- Again and again, Erin demonstrates that she came to NYC with her own ideas about the virus and treatment and refuses to learn anything new. If she had been truly concerned about patient safety, there are not only reporting capabilities in place for situations where patient safety is a concern, but by law and ethical guidelines all licensed medical personnel are required to report patient safety issues to hospital administration and in some situations local law enforcement—and she did neither of those things. She cherry picks studies that make her points rather than stay up to date with current science. She spreads misinformation rather than listen to what people with greater expertise are telling her. Worst of all, she is instilling fear in people at a time when people need to be listening to healthcare professionals. She is even anti-mask.
Thankfully, Erin Marie Olszewski was found out as the disingenuous person she is and fired from Elmhurst. I know people have been in contact with the hospital’s attorneys about Erin but I am not sure what is happening. Attorneys often take a long time to establish a case and are not exactly going to share their thoughts with us. She has been reported for her HIPAA violation and that action is moving forward.
Thank you to everyone on Facebook who has helped organize details used in this blog post. I did not compile or analyze all the facts herein myself. A dedicated group found most of them so that we could compile them together into a generalized area. Their help was invaluable.
Please stay tuned for more to come. We have accounts from nurses and doctors who worked with Erin Marie Olszewski at Elmhurst we hope to share next.
Remember to #maskup!