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Brazil’s Covid-19 resurgence is pushing hospitals to overflowing

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On the outskirts of São Paulo, the crisis is turning things upside down for the small emergency hospital Dr. Akira Tada. In normal times, doctors there stabilized critical patients and sent them to larger hospitals and better equipped with intensive care units (ICUs).

But these are not normal times. Today few hospitals have room to accommodate new patients, even in the richest and most populous state in Brazil.

When Dineia Martins Firmino was admitted to hospital in early March, doctors intubated the 76-year-old and told his family he desperately needed to be taken to an ICU for more sophisticated treatment, according to his granddaughter Pamela Rivippi, 30 years old.

He never left the government’s official list for his transfer. “No vacancy appeared at the time I needed her and she ended up dying on Saturday,” Ravippi said. “We did the funeral on Sunday.”

The fierce new wave of coronavirus that claimed Firmino’s life is flooding intensive care beds in São Paulo and across the country.

As of Sunday, 21 Brazilian states and the Federal District had an ICU employment rate of more than 80%. Of these, 14 were on the verge of collapse with more than 90% occupancy.

In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, ICUs are so overcrowded that the largest public hospital treating Covid-19 cases in the state capital of Porto Alegre said Sunday it was forced to close the doors to new patients.

“The Covid ward of the hospital’s ICU already has an occupancy rate of 132%,” the management of Porto Alegre Hospital Hospital das Clinicas said in a statement.

With full rooms comes the growing demand for oxygen and other commodities. In the north, the state of Rondonia occupies 97.6% of the ICU and the Attorney General’s Office has warned that the local oxygen supply could be depleted in just two weeks.

The state faces an “imminent risk of oxygen shortages,” the letter said: a reminder of a previous crisis in the city of Manaus, the state capital of the Amazon, where hospitals ran out of oxygen in January with lethal consequences.
In the face of criticism of its pandemic management, including those of former President Lula da Silva, The federal government of Brazil has noted a new i variant of the local coronavirus possibly more contagious, which currently spreads all over the country and even abroad.
But experts also blame the spread of the failure of Brazilians in following the guidelines of mask and social distancing, encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro, who considers preventive measures dangerous for the economy and social stability. In São Paulo, officials have resorted to the tactic of beating a mole to attack nightlife spots to disperse gatherings of hundreds, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, despite a solid historical vaccination history, the national implementation of Covid-19 vaccines in Brazil has been slow. Not more 1.4% of the population has been completely vaccinated.

Brazilian Health Minister Pazuello, currently under investigation for his treatment of the Manaus crisis, recently estimated that March would be available from 22 to 25 million doses, a sharp drop from previous predictions that would be available up to 46 million of vaccine doses this month.

The federal government is negotiating new vaccine agreements, including a purchase order for Sputnik V. made in Russia, but for now there is a shortage. In the coastal city of Rio de Janeiro, officials have already been forced to suspend the administration of the first doses. The campaign will be restarted when vaccines are available through Brazil’s health ministry, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said.

With the daily death toll in the thousands, every hour that passes means lives lost.

According to hospital officials, in a sad five-day stretch this month, a dozen Covid-19 patients died at Dr. Akira Tada. They were all on a waiting list to be transferred to an ICU.

Dr. Maria Dolores da Silva, the hospital’s emergency medicine doctor, has never seen anything like it. A 42-year-old veteran of the Brazilian public health system, she doesn’t usually talk about her job, but in an interview with CNN she bowed her head and cried thinking about the loss.

“Psychologically, it affects us,” Dr. da Silva said. “As much as we want to be strong, feelings come to the surface because of so much suffering we see.”

A local court recently intervened and ordered that at least 17 ICU beds be made available to those waiting to be transferred, noting public statistics from the State of São Paulo, which state that approximately 10% of ICU beds are available. of the region are still available. The state faces a $ 6,000 fine for each day that does not provide beds for these patients.

But dozens more patients than Dr. Akira Tada is still waiting to be transferred to treatment. On Sunday morning a 13th patient died waiting.

By Sunday night, none of the remaining patients had been transferred.

CNN journalists Rodrigo Pedroso, Marcia Reverdosa and Matt Rivers reported from São Paulo. CNN’s Caitlin Hu reported from New York.

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