In over three decades of emergency medicine, Beijing doctor Howard Bernstein stated that he had never witnessed anything similar in his career.
His hospital is seeing an increasing number of patients. Nearly all of them are older and have COVID or pneumonia symptoms.
Bernstein’s story echoes similar testimony by medical personnel across China, who struggle to deal with China’s sudden U-turn on COVID policies. This was followed this month by an epidemic of new infections.
This is the worst outbreak in China since three years ago when the pandemic started in Wuhan. Due to heavy demand, Beijing’s crematoriums and government hospitals have also been experiencing difficulties this month.
Bernstein said to Reuters that the hospital was “just overwhelmed from top-to-bottom” after he had completed a stressful shift at Beijing United Family Hospital, east of Beijing.
He said, “The ICU’s full”, as well as the emergency department and fever clinic, which he added.
Many of these people were admitted to the hospital. He said that they aren’t getting better within a few days. They’re in the ER for several days.”
Bernstein has seen dozens of COVID patients in the last month. He went from not having ever treated one.
He stated, “the biggest challenge is honestly I believe we were just not prepared for this.”
Sonia Jutard Bourreau (48), chief medical officer of the Raffles Hospital Beijing said that patient numbers have increased by five to sixfolds and the average age of patients has risen from around 40 to 70 years in a matter of weeks.
She said, “It is always the same profile.” The reason is that most patients are not vaccinated.
Raffles is visited by patients and relatives who are overwhelmed at local hospitals.
Jutard Bourreau stated that the patients want to use the medication as a substitute for the vaccine. However, the medicine cannot replace the vaccine.
Jutard-Bourreau is a Chinese-American who, like Bernstein, has worked in China for around 10 years. He fears the worst has yet to come.
Reuters reported that medical personnel in China told Reuters they are stretched thin in certain cases due to high levels of sickness and COVID.
According to one nurse based west of Xian, 45 out of 51 nurses from her hospital and the entire staff of the emergency room have contracted the virus over the past weeks.
The 22-year-old nurse surnamed Wang said, “There are so few positive cases amongst my colleagues.” It’s a common problem that almost all doctors have.
Wang, as well as nurses from other hospitals, said that they were told by their superiors to report even if they had a mild fever or test positive.
Jiang (a 29-year-old nurse) is in a Hubei provincial psychiatric hospital ward. She said that staff attendance was down by more than 50% and she has had to stop accepting new patients. Jiang said that she works 16-hour shifts and has insufficient support.
She said, “I am concerned that the patient may become agitated. You have to hold them down, but it is not possible to do this alone.” It’s not an ideal situation.
Reuters spoke with doctors about their concerns for the elderly. Expert estimates suggest that tens to thousands may die.
Airfinity, a British-based data company, estimated that more than 5,000 Chinese are likely to die each day due to COVID-19. This starkly contrasts with the official Beijing data on China’s current epidemic.
The National Health Commission didn’t immediately reply to Reuters’s request for comment regarding the concerns expressed by doctors in this article.
China did not report any COVID deaths in China during the six-day period ending Sunday. This was despite a surge in crematoria demand.
China narrowed the definition of COVID-related deaths, allowing only COVID caused pneumonia and respiratory failure to be counted. This has raised eyebrows among international health professionals.
Jutard Bourreau said, “It is not medicine. It’s politics.” They are dying from COVID now. It’s not medical that is causing the current mortality rate.