By Pedro Pablo Cortes
Mexico City, Dec 1 (efe-epa).- Relatives of patients, health experts and even the World Health Organization are contradicting the official line being put out by the Mexican government that the coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control despite the fact that new records are being set for hospitalizations and the hospital system is saturated with ill people.
The reality is much in evidence in front of the La Raza Hospital, one of the health centers that is practically 100 percent occupied in Mexico City, where Sandra Flores is one of dozens of people who are waiting out on the street for news of their loved ones being treated inside.
“He came with all the symptoms, he needed to be hospitalized, but there were no available beds, so we were waiting a bit to see if they could give him one,” Sandra told EFE regarding her relative.
The drama at the capital city medical center is being repeated at many other health facilities, like the Parque de los Venados General Hospital, where dozens of families are seated on the sidewalk, some of them waiting for information and others waiting for a bed.
“It’s very slow, what’s happening is that there are not a lot of personnel and since the hospital is saturated, it’s very slow. So, they don’t come out so quickly to give us reports. We have to wait,” said Maximo Vega, who has spent the past four days on the grassy strip in front of the hospital.
These scenes are occurring a day after the warning issued by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom, who said the fact that the number of cases and deaths had doubled between Oct. 12 and Nov. 20 in Mexico was of great concern to the international organization.
He said that he thought this showed that Mexico was in bad shape in terms of dealing with the virus.
Mexico has suffered almost 106,000 deaths and more than 1,110,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far, making it the No. 4 country in the world for deaths and No. 11 for infections.
The Health Secretariat reported last week four days with more than 10,000 newly confirmed Covid-19 cases, the highest figures so far during the pandemic except for Oct. 5, when 28,115 new cases were registered due to a change in methodology where cases tested over a number of past days were all counted toward that day’s total at once.
However, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the official tasked with overseeing pandemic management in Mexico, downplayed the WHO warning and criticized a Mexican reporter “for asking a question” of Tedros Adhanom.
“What he’s saying is what everyone is saying,” said Lopez-Gatell, who is the deputy secretary for disease prevention and health promotion.
Mexico City is the area in Mexico with the highest occupancy of intensive care beds – 61 percent – as well as having the second-highest general hospitalization numbers: 65 percent.
There are 29 hospitals in the capital, out of a total of 59 hospitals nationwide that can treat Covid-19 cases, and a “red alert” is issued if general hospital occupancy exceeded 70 percent, but 10 of those centers already have 99 percent or even 100 percent occupancy right now, according to the IRAG acute respiratory infection network information system.
But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rejected what the figures show.
“In the short term there’s no risk of saturation in Mexico City. That is, there are beds, there is equipment, there are doctors,” he said at his Monday morning press conference.
But relatives of patients outside the Mexico City hospitals say that they have often had to travel to several medical centers to try and get treatment, and that is the case with Rodrigo del Castillo, who came to La Raza after five private centers refused to admit one of his family members.
“I was calling to see if we could get him transferred. Apparently, there’s no room in private hospitals. In public hospitals like the Social Security (hospital), the ISSSTE and the military (hospital) yes there are available beds, but only for about 1,000 people and there are millions of us in Mexico City,” he said.
Public health expert Carolina Gomez also said that the “wake-up call” WHO issued to the Mexican government was of great “concern.”
“The figures are very clear and there’s no way to get around them. They’ve tried to trivialize this tragedy and the truth is that if we keep going on like this we’re going to have a very tough winter where unfortunately we’re going to continue to have very sad numbers” of confirmed cases and deaths, she told EFE.