China deploys over 400 military doctors as Wuhan grapples with resource shortages

China is mobilising hundreds of doctors from across the country including nearly 450 medical workers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to deploy in Wuhan amid reports of severe shortage of medical resources and overworked, exhausted medics treating the large number of Coronavirus patients in the city.

Reports in state media said hospitals across Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the raging novel Coronavirus outbreak, are facing a shortage of medical resources and are being forced to prioritise patients.

“Shortage of medical resources, especially the testing kits, keep hovering hospitals in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province while the whole of China is fighting together against the novel coronavirus originating in the city,” reported the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times.

A doctor from a Wuhan hospital confirmed to the tabloid that there’s a “severe shortage of detection reagent for nCoV (coronavirus)”.

Given that Chinese state media is strictly controlled by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), the situation on the ground in Wuhan would have to be grave for a state media outlet to report it.

“Many patients in Wuhan revealed to the media that only hospitalised or highly suspected cases would be referred for examination of nCoV due to the shortage of the reagent kits. Patients with milder conditions are less likely to be admitted to the hospital immediately, but have to be treated and observed at home,” the tabloid reported.

One reason for the shortage of kits is that the staff in companies, which manufacture the kits are on holiday, hampering production capacities and supply chains.

Chinese state and social media are also carrying reports about doctors and nurses working non-stop for hours – sometimes days – and are near collapse.

Medical resources in Wuhan are clearly overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients and suspected patients of the virus.

One way to tackle that is to deploy doctors from other provinces and the armed forces.

“China has sent 450 military medical staff, including professionals who have experience in the fight against SARS or Ebola, to the novel coronavirus hardest-hit city of Wuhan. The medics, in three teams sent by medical universities of the army, navy and air force of the PLA arrived in Wuhan by military aircraft on Friday night,” official news agency, Xinhua reported early on Saturday.

The teams comprising experts in respiratory health, infectious diseases, hospital infection control and intensive care unit, will be dispatched to the Wuhan hospitals with large numbers of novel coronavirus-related pneumonia patients, military authorities said.

Other Chinese provinces are also pitching in.

More than 600 doctors and nurses from Shanghai in eastern China and Guangdong province in the south are ready to leave for the embattled Wuhan.

“Doctors, nurses and experts from hospitals in other places such as Zhejiang (eastern China) and Sichuan (southwestern China) have been selected or volunteered to sign up for the task,” the Xinhua reported.

The Wuhan headquarters for the control and treatment of pneumonia said on Friday that it will follow “Beijing’s SARS (2003) treatment model to build a special hospital for admitting patients infected in the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus”.

The makeshift hospital designed to have an area of 25,000 square meters with 1,000 beds is expected to be completed and put into use prior to February 3.

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