Toluca (Mexico) (AFP)
For paramedics battling an outbreak of coronavirus infections in Mexico, finding an available bed for patients in overwhelmed hospitals has become a daily lottery.
“For there to be room, a person has to be fired or die. It’s difficult but it’s the truth, ”said Angel Zuniga, coordinator of the Red Cross in the town of Toluca in the southwest of the capital.
“One goes in and the other goes out,” Zuniga added.
In Mexico City and surrounding areas, 64 of 78 hospitals were in “critical” condition on Friday with beds available in only a handful of them, authorities said.
In the capital itself, which has nine million people, 86% of hospital beds were occupied.
The problem is not confined to the public sector.
Private clinics, where many coronavirus patients turn in the hope of finding a place, are also overcrowded.
Some refuse patients unless they make a deposit of 170,000 pesos (about $ 8,400).
“They say ‘take him away’ and we’ll go back to the streets,” looking for another hospital, Zuniga said.
– ‘You are getting desperate’ –
Even when there is room for another patient, it can sometimes take hours before admission.
“It’s frustrating, but if we collapse the health care system will collapse too. So we always try to stay positive, ”said Miguel Angel Moreno, a paramedic from Naucalpan near the capital.
“As humans, there is obviously a time when you get desperate. ”
Along with the emotional stress, there is the physical harm and discomfort of having to wear a protective suit for hours on end.
“Fatigue is always a problem,” said Ana Yesi Hernandez, a paramedic.
“Sometimes it takes them three to four hours to find an extra bed in a hospital. ”
Mexico’s official death toll from Covid-19, the fourth highest in the world, now stands at nearly 134,000, with more than 1.5 million recorded cases.
Authorities admit that the actual figure is likely much higher due to limited testing.
Authorities on Friday scrapped plans to reopen non-essential activities in the capital.
“The city is today at its highest level of hospitalization since the start of the pandemic,” said Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.
Paramedics say the patients they are seeing now likely fell ill as they gathered to celebrate Christmas.
Soon they expect to see those who caught the virus over the New Year holidays.
They are praying for some respite after this wave subsides.
Beyond that, they are counting on the vaccination program that the government began on December 24, with priority given to health workers.
“We all have high hopes for the vaccine,” Zuniga said.
© 2021 AFP