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Health Minister Expects 100 Daily Deaths in Manaus Unless Patients Transferred

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The health crisis in Manaus remains very severe. Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, in a dramatic statement on Friday, January 29th, alerted that unless radical measures are taken it will be impossible to control the situation.

“Unless 1,500 patients are evacuated [to other states] (…) between 80 and 100 people will continue to die every day because ICUs are not built overnight,” he said two weeks after the death of at least 50 people asphyxiated due to a shortage of oxygen in the city’s hospitals.

Previously, the federal Prosecutor General’s Office (PGR) had launched an investigation into the Minister, because Pazuello had been officially notified that oxygen was running low due to the dramatic surge of hospitalizations in early 2021.

First group of patients with covid-19 from Amazonas State who will be transferred to other states.
First group of patients with covid-19 from Amazonas State who will be transferred to other states. (Photo: internet reproduction)

Critics maintain the Minister took no action at that time. For two weeks, thousands of desperate families have been searching for oxygen supplies in any way they can to keep their loved ones alive. On Friday, as part of proceedings launched by the PGR, the Federal Police opened an inquiry to investigate the case.

Pazuello delivered the bleak outlook in Manaus as he welcomed the 108 doctors that the authorities rushed to hire in an attempt to mitigate the critical situation. The state’s healthcare network has always been fragile. There is a shortage of ICUs, doctors… The Minister states that oxygen is stabilized. It is a very remote, vast region with a scattered population outside Manaus.

Only the capital city is equipped with intensive care units, and they are now full. The crisis is spreading throughout Brazil’s North: Rondônia is lacking beds and doctors, and the governor of Pará, Helder Barbalho, confirmed on Friday that two patients infected with the new strain of the coronavirus were detected in the state.

The governor of Amazonas has extended the total confinement that began on Monday until February 7th and suspended the Carnival holiday.

To relieve ICUs, General Pazuello considers it essential to evacuate 1,500 patients to other states to accommodate the most critically ill who urgently need oxygen and those who are likely to come in. Amazonas is in full rainy season, when cases of acute respiratory syndrome skyrocket every year because humidity levels reach 100%. “We breathe water,” stressed the Minister.

The adverse scenario is compounded by the coronavirus because the region “was given a new strain of Covid-19, genetically identified by the Fiocruz institute, which is three times more contagious,” said the Minister. He also directly appealed to the two million Manaus residents to contact a doctor upon the first symptom.

Pazuello was introduced as a logistics specialist when Bolsonaro appointed him after firing two Health Ministers at the start of the pandemic. The oxygen crisis, which shocked Brazil, placed him in the spotlight. His words contrast with what he said in the same city days before the fateful night when several of Manaus’ main hospitals ran out of oxygen. At the time, he mentioned the alerts resignedly and in a mild tone.

Source: El País

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