Medical Workers on Frontline of China’s COVID Combat Say Hospitals Are ‘Overwhelmed’

BEIJING (Reuters) – In additional than three many years of emergency medication, Beijing-based physician Howard Bernstein stated, he has by no means seen something like this.

Sufferers are arriving at his hospital in ever-increasing numbers; virtually all are aged and plenty of are very unwell with COVID and pneumonia signs, he stated.

Bernstein’s account displays comparable testimony from medical employees throughout China who’re scrambling to manage after China’s abrupt U-turn on its beforehand strict COVID insurance policies this month was adopted by a nationwide wave of infections.

It’s by far the nation’s largest outbreak because the pandemic started within the central metropolis of Wuhan three years in the past. Beijing authorities hospitals and crematoriums even have been struggling this month amid heavy demand.

“The hospital is simply overwhelmed from high to backside,” Bernstein informed Reuters on the finish of a “annoying” shift on the privately owned Beijing United Household Hospital within the east of the capital.

“The ICU is full,” as are the emergency division, the fever clinic and different wards, he stated.

“A whole lot of them received admitted to the hospital. They don’t seem to be getting higher in a day or two, so there is not any movement, and subsequently folks maintain coming to the ER, however they can not go upstairs into hospital rooms,” he stated. “They’re caught within the ER for days.”

Prior to now month, Bernstein went from by no means having handled a COVID affected person to seeing dozens a day.

“The most important problem, actually, is I believe we had been simply unprepared for this,” he stated.

Sonia Jutard-Bourreau, 48, chief medical officer on the non-public Raffles Hospital in Beijing, stated affected person numbers are 5 to 6 instances their regular ranges, and sufferers’ common age has shot up by about 40 years to over 70 within the area of every week.

“It is at all times the identical profile,” she stated. “That’s many of the sufferers haven’t been vaccinated.”

The sufferers and their family members go to Raffles as a result of native hospitals are “overwhelmed”, she stated, and since they want to purchase Paxlovid, the Pfizer-made COVID remedy, which many locations, together with Raffles, are operating low on.

“They need the drugs like a substitute of the vaccine, however the medication doesn’t exchange the vaccine,” Jutard-Bourreau stated, including that there are strict standards for when her staff can prescribe it.

Jutard-Bourreau, who like Bernstein has been working in China for round a decade, fears that the worst of this wave in Beijing has not arrived but.

Elsewhere in China, medical employees informed Reuters that assets are already stretched to the breaking level in some instances, as COVID and illness ranges amongst employees have been notably excessive.

One nurse primarily based within the western metropolis of Xian stated 45 of 51 nurses in her division and all employees within the emergency division have caught the virus in current weeks.

“There are such a lot of constructive instances amongst my colleagues,” stated the 22-year-old nurse, surnamed Wang. “Virtually all of the medical doctors are down with it.”

Wang and nurses at different hospitals stated that they had been informed to report for obligation even when they take a look at constructive and have a gentle fever.

Jiang, a 29-year-old nurse on a psychiatric ward at a hospital in Hubei province, stated employees attendance has been down greater than 50 p.c on her ward, which has stopped accepting new sufferers. She stated she is working shifts of greater than 16 hours with inadequate help.

“I fear that if the affected person seems to be agitated, it’s a must to restrain them, however you can not simply do it alone,” she stated. “It isn’t an amazing scenario to be in.”


The medical doctors who spoke to Reuters stated they had been most apprehensive concerning the aged, tens of hundreds of whom might die, in accordance with estimates from consultants.

Greater than 5,000 persons are in all probability dying every day from COVID-19 in China, Britain-based well being knowledge agency Airfinity estimated, providing a dramatic distinction to official knowledge from Beijing on the nation’s present outbreak.

The Nationwide Well being Fee didn’t instantly reply to a Reuters request for touch upon the issues raised by medical employees on this article.

China reported no COVID deaths on the mainland for the six days by means of Sunday, the Chinese language Heart for Illness Management and Prevention stated on Sunday, at the same time as crematories confronted surging demand.

China has narrowed its definition for classifying deaths as COVID-related, counting solely these involving COVID-caused pneumonia or respiratory failure, elevating eyebrows amongst world well being consultants.

“It isn’t medication, it is politics,” stated Jutard-Bourreau. “In the event that they’re dying now with COVID it is due to COVID. The mortality price now it is political numbers, not medical.”

(Further reporting by the Beijing Newsroom. Enhancing by Gerry Doyle)