Chinese hospitals are so overwhelmed after the sudden reversal of the country’s “zero COVID” policies that many have been forced to turn away ambulances and critically ill patients.
Emergency rooms in small towns and villages outside Beijing are overflowing with sick patients, slumped on benches and lying on the floor due to a lack of available beds.
With intensive care units at full capacity, facilities are unable to admit all the patients who are rushed to them in ambulances.
Beijing-based physician Howard Bernstein has not seen such a dire situation in the three decades he has practiced medicine.
“The hospital is just overwhelmed from top to bottom,” Bernstein told Reuters at the end of a “stressful” shift at Beijing United Family Hospital.
Not only is the intensive care unit full, but so are the emergency department, the fever clinic and just about every other department in the hospital, Bernstein said.
Almost all of the patients desperate for treatment for the virus are elderly and suffering from symptoms of COVID and pneumonia. The majority of patients have not been vaccinated against COVID.
“A lot of them have been admitted to hospital. They don’t get better in a day or two, so there’s no flow, and so people keep coming to the emergency room, but they can’t. not go up to hospital rooms,” he said. “They’re stuck in the ER for days.
National infections have been on the rise since the communist government abruptly abandoned its strict “zero-COVID” policies with seemingly no plan to deal with the inevitable wave of infections.
Chinese residents are no longer required to report positive test results and the government no longer publishes the daily number of asymptomatic cases.
Since the policy was lifted earlier this month, Bernstein has gone from never treating a COVID patient to seeing dozens every day.
“Honestly, the biggest challenge is that I think we just weren’t prepared for it,” he said.
Hospitals and other medical facilities have reported a lack of resources to fight rising infections and are so understaffed that they have forced nurses and doctors to come to work even though they test positive for the virus and have fever.
A nurse based in the western city of Xian said 45 out of 51 nurses on her ward as well as all emergency workers at the hospital had caught COVID in recent weeks.
Sonia Jutard-Bourreau, chief medical officer at the private Raffles Hospital in Beijing, said the number of patients had increased significantly – up to five to six times its normal level – and the average age of patients had increased by ‘about 40 years to reach more than 70 years. years in a week.
Most patients have not been vaccinated, Jutard-Bourreau said, but many are still trying to buy Paxlovid, which many hospitals are dangerously short of.
“They want the drug as a substitute for the vaccine, but the drug is not a substitute for the vaccine,” Jutard-Bourreau said.
Some 37 million people may have contracted COVID-19 in China on December 20 alone – and as many as 248 million people – nearly 18% of China’s population – contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December.
It’s unclear how Chinese health officials arrived at this mammoth figure since the government does not release detailed data on COVID and the country’s network of PCR testing booths was shut down earlier this month, although that the rise has sparked global fears that a new, dangerous variant could emerge.
With post wires