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Catastrophic Medical Management in China amid worst Covid outbreak

BEIJING, Dec 26 – In more than three decades of emergency medicine, Beijing doctor Howard Bernstein said he had never seen anything like it.

Hospital and healthcare management in China seems to have collapsed amid the worst Covid outbreak this December 2022. Emergency medical facility has been totally clogged due to mass suffering and chaos among citizens due to strict government policies and initial mismanagement.

Patients are coming to his hospital in increasing numbers; almost all are elderly and many are very sick with symptoms of COVID and pneumonia, he said.

Bernstein’s account echoes similar testimonies from medical staff across China struggling to cope after China abruptly reversed its previously strict policies on COVID this month, followed by a nationwide wave of infections.

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It is by far the largest outbreak in the country since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan three years ago. Beijing’s government hospitals and crematoria have also faced heavy demand this month.

“The hospital is just overwhelmed from top to bottom,” Bernstein told Reuters at the end of a “stressful” shift at the private Beijing United Family Hospital in the east of the capital.

“The ICU is full,” he also said the emergency room, fever and other departments.

“A lot of them have been admitted to the hospital. They don’t get better in a day or two, so no power, and that’s why people are still coming to the emergency room, but they can’t go up to the hospital rooms,” he said. he said. “They’re stuck in the emergency room for days.

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Over the past month, Bernstein has gone from never treating a COVID patient to dozens a day.

“Honestly, the biggest challenge is that I don’t think we were prepared for it,” he said.

Sonia Jutard-Bourreau, 48, chief medical officer at the private Raffles Hospital in Beijing, said patient numbers were five to six times higher than normal levels and the average age of patients had increased by about 40 years to more than 70 over the year . week.

“It’s always the same profile,” she said. “This means that most patients have not been vaccinated.”

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Patients and their relatives visit Raffles because local hospitals are “overburdened,” she said, and because they want to buy Paxlovid, a Pfizer-made COVID treatment that is running out in many places, including Raffles.

“They want a drug as a replacement for a vaccine, but a drug does not replace a vaccine,” Jutard-Bourreau said, adding that there are strict criteria for when her team can prescribe it.

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

Elsewhere in China, medical staff told Reuters that resources are already stretched to breaking point in some cases because the level of COVID and sickness among staff is particularly high.

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One nurse based in the western city of Xian said 45 of the 51 nurses in her ward and all staff in the emergency department had caught the virus in recent weeks.

“There are so many positive cases among my colleagues,” said a 22-year-old nurse surnamed Wang. “Almost all the doctors are down with it.

Wang and nurses at other hospitals said they were told to report for duty even if they tested positive and had a mild fever.

Jiang, a 29-year-old nurse in a psychiatric ward at a hospital in Hubei province, said staff attendance at her ward, which stopped accepting new patients, had dropped by more than 50 percent. She reported working shifts of more than 16 hours with insufficient support.

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“I’m afraid that if a patient seems agitated, you have to restrain them, but you can’t easily do that alone,” she said. “It’s not a great situation.

MORTALITY “POLITICAL”

Doctors who spoke to Reuters said they were most worried about the elderly, tens of thousands of whom experts estimate could die.

More than 5,000 people in China are likely to die from COVID-19 every day, British healthcare company Airfinity has estimated, offering a dramatic contrast to official figures from Beijing about the country’s current epidemic.

The National Health Commission did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the concerns raised by medical staff in this article.

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China reported no mainland COVID-19 deaths for six days until Sunday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday, even as crematoria faced rising demand.

China has narrowed its definition for classifying deaths as COVID-related, counting only those involving COVID-related pneumonia or respiratory failure, raising eyebrows among global health experts.

“This is not medicine, this is politics,” Jutard-Bourreau said. “If they’re dying of COVID now, it’s because of COVID. The death rate is now a political number, not a medical number.”

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