Brazil’s hospitals run out of oxygen for COVID-19 patients

by | Jan 29, 2021 | International

RIO DE JANEIRO —The hospital system in the Brazilian city of Manaus has reached a breaking point while treating a second wave of COVID-19 patients, with reports of severe oxygen shortages.

The city, located in the Amazonas state south of Venezuela, was one of the worst-hit Brazilian cities in the first wave of the pandemic and is getting worse now. More than 7,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Amazonas since the pandemic began last year.

“We are facing the most critical moment of the pandemic, something unprecedented in the state of Amazonas,” Wilson Lima, governor of Amazonas, said during a news conference.

“The public health is collapsing, there are no hospital beds, no oxygen, nothing,” said Wildla Garcez, 20, from Manaus.

“People are dying because of it and no one is talking about it. The minister and the governor want to push the drugs chloroquine and ivermectin that have no proof of scientific relevance against COVID,” she said.

Health workers transport a patient with Covid symptoms to a hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on Jan. 14, 2021. (Photo provided by Bruno Kelly)
Health workers transport a patient with Covid symptoms to a hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on Jan. 14. Photo credit: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

COVID-19 patients are suffering from respiratory complications, and some are dying of asphyxiation in the city’s hospitals because there is no oxygen to give them.

About 60 premature babies were airlifted from hospitals in Manaus for emergency care in São Paulo.

“São Paulo will receive all babies that can be transported. This is the end of the world, not having oxygen for premature babies. What irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government,” São Paulo’́s Governor João Doria said.

A local female medical worker shared a video that went viral on social media, where she asks the internet for help. “We’re in an awful state. Oxygen has simply run out across the whole unit today,” she said.

“There is no oxygen, and lots of people are dying. If anyone has any oxygen, please bring it to the clinic. There are so many people dying,” she said via video.

“In the last two weeks, three people I knew have passed away. I am uncomfortable with the lack of empathy and responsibility that people have. Yesterday some friends of mine had a party,” said Thais Costa de Queiroz, 17, of Manaus.

Fourteen non-profit organizations merged to create the SOS AM movement to help people from the Amazonas state to get the supplies they need.

“The objective was initially to help the hospital with water and snacks, but then it took on a larger proportion, and we are now helping with hospital supplies, oxygen, medication and everything necessary,” Thiago Souto, a member of Salaada Solidario, one of the organizations part of the movement, said.

The movement collected 86,000 litres of oxygen between Jan. 16 to Jan. 23, and are accepting more donations.