Brazil’s healthcare system has plunged into the most dangerous crisis in its history, with doctors overwhelmed and sick patients dying while waiting for intensive care beds as the country’s COVID-19 skeptic president, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to reject calls for a life-saving lockdown.
As the number of daily injuries and deaths rose to new heights this week, researchers from Brazil’s leading healthcare institute, Fiucruz, said the largest country in South America faced an unparalleled “catastrophe”.
The institute said Covid intensive care units in nearly all of Brazil’s 26 states and the federal district that contains the capital, Brasilia, are now either or are dangerously close to their capacity, Warning: “The situation is very critical.”
Brazil’s far-right leader and his allies continue to downplay the outbreak of the disease that has killed more than 287,000 people, the second highest number on Earth, and partly as a result of the most contagious P1 variable, now accelerating to By far its deadliest phase.
“Our situation is not so critical. Bolsonaro’s leader in the House of Representatives, Ricardo Barros, said on Wednesday that 2,798 deaths have been reported and 90,830 new cases have been recorded compared to other countries.
But interviews with intensive care doctors in four of the worst affected states – Mato Grosso do Sol, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo – belie this claim.
“Things are desperate,” said Hermito Bachwalec, head of the intensive care unit in Mato Grosso do Sul state in the Midwest, where these facilities were 93% full this week.
Pasholeik, who works at a public hospital in the city of Dorados, said he saw his team members shed tears of exhaustion and despair as they grappled with the chain of patients. On Tuesday, his 20-bed unit had one free bed – and requests to admit 22 seriously ill patients with COVID-19.
“It’s terrifying,” the doctor said, referring to an even more tragic situation in Punta Bora, a town 75 miles down the road on the Paraguay border, where a 30-bed Covid ICU hospital was transporting an average of 10 patients per day.
In the state capital, Campo Grande, things were worse. “I was informed yesterday that there is a health clinic with 20 ambulances parked outside. Patients arrive from small towns inside and there is no place to put them – so they keep them in ambulances.” It was a private hospital. It closed its doors Because even the casualty department was full of Covid patients on ventilators.
Danilo Maqsoud, a cardiologist from Sao Paulo, said Brazil’s richest and most populous state – with intensive care units filled with more than 11,000 patients with 89% Covid-19 – was similarly in dire straits. “There’s no mess – we’re far from chaos,” admitted the 39-year-old doctor, who said all of his 20 intensive care beds were occupied after a month-long increase in admissions.
Maqsoud indicated that a “complete shutdown” may be the only way to stop the rampage of the virus, although Bolsonaro has resisted this idea, apparently fearing the possible impact it has on the economy and his hopes for re-election next year. With 212 million citizens, Brazil is home to 2.7% of the world’s population but has suffered more than 10% of Covid deaths.
“I don’t know if I ever imagined that we’ll have a moment like this,” Maksoud said on Wednesday after the struggles of Sao Paulo. Record 679 deaths in one day. “It is as if we are trapped in a hole with the walls close to us.”
A thousand miles away, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, where ICUs were 96% full, the story was the same, with Covid bombing almost the entire country at one time.
“People are walking around and saying Brazil is going to collapse,” said critical care physician Pedro Carvallo on Thursday morning when he started another 12-hour shift at a university hospital in the riverfront town of Petrolina.
“But we really collapsed – we totally collapsed,” said Carvalho, 41, whose hospital added 10 new beds to the ICU Monday morning and filled them all by sunset.
The doctor denied claims by Bolsonaro’s ally that Brazilian hospitals were comfortable. Calling it fake news would be very nice. It’s just an absolute lie. Carvalho complained about it: “They know very well how bad things are.”
“I would like to invite those who deny to come to cover some of the shifts in our ICU – not actually treating the sick, of course, but helping us inform families of the death of their loved ones. Maybe then they might stop lying.”
Painful stories about life that came to an abrupt and unnecessary life emerged from every intensive care unit. Bascholic said most of those under his care were over 60 years old, but the young men were also dying. “At the moment, I have three people on ventilators, including a 22-year-old woman and a 25-year-old woman. They were both pregnant upon arrival. One of them lost the baby, the other managed to deliver. They are both intubated and in very poor condition.” .
Andre Machado, a Covid physician from Rio Grande do Sul state, where critical care units are 100% full, said his hospital was so overburdened that he had to choose who would be given the chance to survive in intensive care. “Today, there are 49 A&E patients waiting for a bed in the ICU,” he said Thursday morning. There was only room for four people.
Maqsoud, who works at Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital in São Paulo, said he is not yet forced to play the role of God but has friends elsewhere. Receive such calls He suspects that “rock bottom” will soon reach him as well.
“I feel scared, afraid of what might happen next,” he said, staring at the cliff.
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