Wednesday 26 February 2020

Wuhan nurses' plea for international medics to help fight coronavirus

Open letter urges health workers to go to China, saying resources there are stretched

Two nurses in Wuhan have published an open letter pleading for health workers from around the world to come to China to help fight the coronavirus.

Yingchun Zeng, of the Guangzhou Medical hospital, and Yan Zhen, of the Sun Yet-sen Memorial hospital, also in Guangzhou, published a letter in the medical journal the Lancet on Monday describing mental and physical exhaustion and severe supply shortages on the frontlines of the outbreak.

Zeng and Zhen are two of at least 14,000 nurses, among almost 20,000 medical personnel, from across the country who have gone to Wuhan to help the overwhelmed medical system. “But we need much more help. We are asking nurses and medical staff from countries around the world to come to China now, to help us in this battle,” they said.
Nurses in a specialised ICU ward for patients infected by coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Photograph: Xiao Yijiu/AP

The virus has claimed more than 2,715 lives and infected at least 80,000 people. On Monday, China’s National Health Commission said more than 3,200 health workers had contracted Covid-19, about 90% of those cases in Hubei province. 

According to tallies of deaths reported in the Chinese media, at least 22 health workers have died from the virus.

The two health workers, who arrived in Wuhan in late January, wrote: “The conditions and environment here in Wuhan are more difficult and extreme than we could ever have imagined.”

The letter describes shortages of protective equipment, from N95 face masks with respirators, face shields and goggles to gowns and gloves. Previous media reports have shown doctors and nurses making gowns out of waste bags while hospitals have asked for donations from the public.

Zeng and Zhen’s letter also described the difficulties of day-to-day operations. Protective goggles are hard to see through, while wearing several layers of gloves make opening packages to give patients injections a “huge challenge”. 

Many medical staff have pressure ulcers on their ears and forehead from wearing a mask for so many hours, while others have painful rashes all over their hands from constant washing.

“In order to save energy and the time it takes to put on and take off protective clothing, we avoid eating and drinking for two hours before entering the isolation ward,” the letter said, adding some nurses had fainted from hypoglycaemia, when blood sugar drops too low, or hypoxia, the lack of oxygen.

The letter, which comes as the number of infections in China appear to be falling, contradicts a recent stream of optimistic statements from officials and positive state media coverage hailing the government’s handling of the crisis. An online forum for medical professionals, , translated and posted the letter, but it was later removed.

Zeng and Zhen also highlighted the emotional toll the work had taken. “While we are professional nurses, we are also human. Like everyone else, we feel helplessness, anxiety, and fear. Experienced nurses occasionally find the time to comfort colleagues and try to relieve our anxiety,” they wrote.

“But even experienced nurses may also cry, possibly because we do not know how long we need to stay here and we are the highest-risk group for Covid-19 infection.”

(Source: The Guardian)

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