China’s health care system is struggling to cope with the surging number of patients infected by the deadly coronavirus despite that Chinese President Xi Jingping has re-emerged in public to call for greater confidence in his government.
The death toll Tuesday totaled 1,018 worldwide among the more than 43,000 confirmed infections; 974 deaths, or 96% of the total, occurred in Wuhan city, in China’s Hubei province — signs that hospitals in the epic center of the outbreak have been overwhelmed.
The latest report on the American Medical Association’s website found that out of the city’s 138 virus-infected patients 30% were medical professionals — an alarming rate that suggests the city’s medical system treating over 30,000 patients may be collapsing, said Vincent Su, a thoracic surgeon in Taipei.
Medical system collapsing
“It’s a vicious cycle that the more medical professionals infected, the less patients well-treated. With patients flooding in, the frontline [in Wuhan] appears to be broken. This is what we call a collapsing medical system,” Su said.
With an overwhelming workload in hospitals, the number of patients in Wuhan is likely under-reported, the surgeon estimated.
Mr. Sun’s father is probably one such case.
Sun, currently working in Henan province, told VOA that his father in Wuhan remains a suspected case although he has suffered from severe symptoms — infected lungs, lasting fever and chest pains.
Insufficient medical care
Yet, the elder Sun is given little medical attention.
“He goes to the hospital every day to receive shots. But not a hospital bed is available for him although the doctor said his condition has worsened,” Sun said.
China has added thousands of beds in some 15 shelter-like hospitals in Wuhan.
But many who checked in complained of a lack of medical care and isolation wards there to avoid cross infection.
“Fangchang shelters are for those who haven’t been severely infected. But my father is a highly suspected case who needs to be hospitalized for immediate treatment. Frankly speaking, home quarantine is probably better than going to those shelters,” he added.
The father of Ms. Lo, another Wuhan resident, is a confirmed patient and has no choice but to check into a Fangchang shelter soon.
“It’s arranged that he will first check into a Fangchang shelter. We were told earlier that he will be transferred to another hospital if his symptoms deteriorate. I’m not sure of the shelter’s condition since he hasn’t checked into,” Lo said.
Decisive measures to come
Appearing in a public inspection tour in Beijing, President Xi pledged on Monday that “more decisive measures” will be taken to combat the epidemic amid criticism and suspicion that China has taken action too late and too little to stop its spread and under-reported its death toll.
Spiked levels of sulfur dioxide emissions in Wuhan were recently used to suggest that tens of thousands of bodies might have been cremated.
“If a super spreader emerges to speed up contagion by ten-fold, China may be overtaken by the virus and further pushed into the hell of fire,” said Chen Bingzhong, a former health official.
Taiwan, on Sunday, confirmed its first asymptomatic patient with a high viral load, fueling worries that a super spreader may be on the horizon to worsen the outbreak.