Chinese hospitals scrambling to source ventilators, medical supplies amid Covid surge

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Washington, Dec 21 (IANS) Hospitals across China are scrambling to source ventilators and other ICU equipment amid a mounting wave of Covid infections after the government dropped widespread testing and targeted lockdowns under the zero-Covid policy, according to a media report.

A survey of public tender listings on China’s internet over the past two weeks showed that hospitals in nearly all of China’s cities and provinces are now in the market for ventilators and other equipment used to treat patients seriously ill with Covid-19, RFA reported.

The hospitals seeking such equipment appeared to be concentrated in Beijing and northern China, where mortuaries and funeral homes have been overwhelmed in recent days with a weeks-long backlog of bodies awaiting cremation, RFA reported.

The spike in tenders stands in sharp contrast to lacklustre sales figures reported until now by major ventilator manufacturers during the zero-Covid policy of lockdowns, mandatory quarantine and mass testing, according to an investigation by Radio Free Asia.

A former senior healthcare journalist who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals said hospitals are currently “panic-buying” ventilators and other pieces of equipment.

But she said top-down allocation of anti-Covid funds to build quarantine facilities and finance mass testing contracts had starved local governments and the public healthcare system of the funding needed to properly equip their ICUs to deal with a massive wave of Covid-19 infections.

She suggested that part of the reason behind the recent abandonment of the tight restrictions of zero-Covid policy was that local governments had simply run out of money, RFA reported.

“There is a run on medical supplies right now. Medical resources used to be allocated in an even-handed way by the government,” she said.

“Now, they need to buy supplies but the government won’t give them the money, and of course [local governments] don’t have that money,” the journalist said, adding, “They are all in the red.”

An official in the southwestern city of Chongqing confirmed that she has been struggling to access ventilators since local lockdowns were lifted at the beginning of this month.

“They all suddenly decided to lie flat [do nothing] from December 1, and we were immediately plunged into a shortage of medical supplies. Out of the 17 people working in my office, 15 caught Covid-19,” the official said.

China formally ordered relaxation of Covid restrictions on December 7 following mass anti-lockdown protests that included calls on Communist Party leader Xi Jinping to step down and call elections.

The official said she was unable to buy fever medicines amid a nationwide shortage, let alone source ventilators for people who were seriously ill, RFA reported.

–IANS

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