Scenes of anguish outside Mexican hospitals as Covid-19 deaths mount

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, May 15 (efe-epa).- Columba sits on a bench outside a hospital in this capital where her husband is in critical condition with coronavirus. She is one of dozens of people waiting anxiously for news on loved ones infected by coronavirus as Mexico endures its worst week of the pandemic so far.

“I know there’s no remedy for my husband. At least they can give him quality of life in his final minutes with the oxygen he requires,” Columba says of her 61-year-old spouse, who was already suffering from diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure before contracting Covid-19.

Her sister and brother-in-law have joined Columba in front of Mexico City’s General Balbuena Hospital to offer whatever consolation they can as she braces for her husband’s impending demise.

She recounts bitterly how he was turned away by two other hospitals though he was too ill to stand.

“There is no human quality. We collapse and the police do nothing to help. A little humanity wouldn’t hurt,” Columba says.

Because visitors aren’t allowed inside the hospitals treating Covid-19, family members have no choice but to wait for doctors and nurses to appear at the entrance and update them on the condition of loved ones.

The municipal government recently activated a system enabling video calls between patients and their families. And several hospitals have set up tents for the people stuck outside.

Yet those amenities are only available to a minority.

Most of those in Columba’s situation face long days of seeking out shadows to shelter from the rays of the sun. And some who live too far away to travel back and forth every day are reduced to spending their nights on the street as well.

Tuesday marked the first time Mexico saw more than 300 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours.

Fatalities now stand at 4,477, while the number of confirmed cases is approaching 43,000. The capital accounts for more than 20 percent of those deaths and upwards of 11,000 infections.

In the wee hours of Friday, Maria Teresa called the emergency telephone number to report that her husband was gasping for air.

The person on the other end of the phone told her that Rodolfo, 59, did not qualify for admission to a hospital. But Maria Teresa brought him to Balbuena, where doctors intubated him.

“I am very worried because he can’t speak or stand because he doesn’t have air,” she said of Rodolfo, whose respiration was found to be only 30 percent of normal.

A dozen people in their poor neighborhood have already succumbed to Covid-19, she says, recalling that her “very stubborn” husband had rejected her request to wear a mask.

Mexico City’s hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed, with 73 percent of general treatment beds – and 58 percent of ICU beds – occupied.

The figures for Mexico as a whole are 35 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Paramedic Raul Quiros says that he took a 34-weeks-pregnant woman with coronavirus symptoms to La Raza General Hospital on Friday and had to wait nearly three hours for her to be admitted.

While acknowledging that many hospitals are at the limit of their capacity, he complains of “a lack of administration and communication.”

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