Doctors in hard-hit Brazil have resorted to tying COVID-19 patients to their hospital beds before ramming ventilators down their throats since they no longer have enough sedatives, according to doctors in Rio de Janeiro. “I never thought that I would be living through something like this after 20 years working in intensive care,” Aureo do Carmo Filho told Reuters. “Using mechanical restraints without sedatives is bad practice... the patient is submitted to a form of torture.”
In hospitals where they do still have sedatives, health workers have resorted to diluting them to make supplies go further or using muscle relaxants to calm patients down while they are intubated. “They are awake, without sedatives, and they pop up, with their hands tied to the bed and begging us not to let them die,” one nurse said.
The horrific admissions come on the heels of Doctors Without Borders naming Brazil’s response to the pandemic a “humanitarian catastrophe” that is likely to only get worse in the coming weeks. “I have to be very clear in this: the Brazilian authorities’ negligence is costing lives,” MSF international president Christos Christou said Thursday after Brazil’s death toll rose to 362,000.
MSF general director Meinie Nicolai directly blamed Brazil’s right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro, who, like former U.S. president Donald Trump, downplayed the pandemic and his own bout with COVID-19, causing many to take deadly risks by not believing the virus is as dangerous or as contagious as science proves it is.
“There is no coordination in the response. There is no real acknowledgment of the severity of the disease. Science is put aside. Fake news is being distributed and health care workers are left on their own,” Nicolai said. “The government is failing the Brazilian people. All Brazilians can tell you that they have people around them that have been buried or intubated in places where there are no drugs and no oxygen. That is unacceptable.”
The lack of medical supplies is coupled with resistance by government officials to even recognize the severity of the problem. The P1 variant first identified in Brazil has caused international concern and is now thought to be mutating. France blocked all flights from the country and other countries are now advising against all but essential travel to the beleaguered South American nation.
The lack of proper medical supplies is now coupled with a disastrous vaccine rollout built on both denial and corruption. Just 12 percent of Brazil’s population has received a first dose of the Chinese vaccine Coronavac, which Chinese officials recently admitted is not very effective against stopping people from becoming severely sick.
Earlier in the week, federal prosecutors in the Brazilian state of Roraima opened an investigation after reports emerged that rogue health workers were exchanging doses of the less-than-effective Chinese vaccine, which is primarily what is currently being offered in the country, for illegally mined gold. An advocate for the indigenous tribes that own the land where the gold is mined said health workers were vaccinating clandestine miners under the cover of nightfall, according to Reuters. “The Yanomami have long complained that materials and medicines intended for indigenous health are being diverted to wildcat miners,” the local leader said in a letter seen by Reuters.
More Brazilians are dying every day than anywhere else in the world, with the country logging 3,560 deaths on Thursday alone. Brazil’s health ministry is currently in talks with Spain and other countries to try to get needed supplies to the overwhelmed hospitals. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro continues to fight against regional governments that have tried to mandate masks or institute lockdowns.