Peruvian hospitals under pressure from Covid-19 second wave

Lima, Jan 15 (efe-epa).- Intensive care units at hospitals across Peru were packed with Covid-19 patients Friday as the numbers of deaths and new infections reached levels not seen in months.

The number of people on assisted breathing in ICUs reached 1,553, the same as on Aug. 13, when Peru set a new record for patients hooked up to ventilators.

That statistic came from the head of the EsSalud public health service, Fiorella Molinelli, who said that while ICUs are at roughly 90 percent capacity on average, hospitals in areas already experiencing the impact of the second wave of the pandemic are nearly full.

Such is the case at EsSalud’s Alberto Sabogal Hospital in Callao, the port city neighboring Lima, where all 40 ICU beds were occupied Friday.

“It is very sad to turn away patients who can’t enter intensive care and not even be able to refer them elsewhere because there are no beds in other hospitals either, Dr. Carmen Zarate, chief of the ICU at Sabogal, told Efe.

“Now we see the arrival of patients with greater respiratory difficulty,” she said. “They come with (blood oxygen) saturation of 93 percent and a real need to receive oxygen.”

As recently as a few weeks ago, relatively few of the Covid-19 patients coming through the door at Sabogal Hospital required ICU care.

“We are worried because we can no longer provide care. There is a lack of awareness in the population. I don’t know if it’s really because we are tired of being home and taking care of ourselves, because it seems that people want to get infected and achieve herd immunity,” the physician said.

Dr. Emanuel Benavente, coordinator of the Covid-19 team at Sabogal, told Efe that patient admissions are far outpacing the number of people discharged.

“We are hospitalizing between 16 and 18 patients per shift, while there are some eight discharges in the same period,” he said.

Sabogal is in the process of expanding its capacity by 30 percent and has a contingency plan to boost the number of beds by up to 70 percent if warranted.

“We are in a containment phase, but we are getting to a point in which the growth is so rapid that the decisions and actions we take have to be equally rapid to be able to confront this increase,” Benavente said.

Besides the ICU patients, more than 6,200 other people are being treated at hospitals for coronavirus. At the start of December, the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations was around 3,500.

Since then, Peru has detected more than 60,000 new cases, including some involving the new variant of the virus that emerged last month in the United Kingdom.

More than 1 million Peruvians have been infected and the death toll in this nation of 32.6 million people is approaching 39,000.

Foreign Minister Elizabeth Astete said Friday during an appearance in Congress that the first consignment of the 38 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine Lima acquired from China’s Sinopharma is ready for shipment.

The Peruvian government also has a contract for 14 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine and expects to obtain another 13.3 million doses through the UN’s Covax initiative. EFE fgg-mhh/dr

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