Brazil struggles with lack of ICU doctors as pandemic worsens
As Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak spirals out of control, the country is facing a dangerous new shortage, threatening to drive fatalities even higher: a lack of staff in intensive care units, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Some medical professionals are burned out after months of grueling, soul-sapping work. Others are simply unable to keep up with the endless flow of critical COVID-19 patients pushing the country’s healthcare system to the brink.
Driven by an infectious new variant, a lack of containment measures, a chaotic federal response and a patchy vaccine rollout, Latin America’s biggest country has become the epicenter of the global pandemic. More than 284,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic - the highest death toll outside the United States.
Brazil is now accounting for one in every six coronavirus infections reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.
It has posted record daily deaths and caseloads this week, even as many countries are beating back the coronavirus with immunization drives, creating a political crisis for President Jair Bolsonaro and isolating Brazil internationally.
The country’s health system is buckling, according to the Fiocruz biomedical institute, as intensive care units (ICUs) in 25 of 26 states and the federal district are filled beyond 80% capacity. Nineteen state capitals have passed 90% capacity.
On Thursday, the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s affluent business hub, recorded its first death of a patient waiting for a bed in an ICU.
In many states, governors and mayors are struggling to open field hospitals due to a lack of qualified professionals. Public health officials are cancelling elective surgeries and converting hospital wings into makeshift ICUs, but still running up against a lack of human resources.
Brazil has over 540,000 doctors and its ratio of physicians per capita is not far off that of the United States. However, only a fraction are qualified for specialized ICU care.