China’s ongoing battle with a COVID surge has completely devastated the country’s healthcare infrastructure, especially in the Hebei province.
Hospitals in Baoding and Langfang have been forced to turn away ambulances and ill patients seeking treatment, while health administrators have been required to treat patients in over-capacity intensive care units on benches or the floor, officials said.
"I don’t have much hope," said Yao Ruyan, whose elderly mother-in-law requires urgent medical care as she contracted the coronavirus. However, Yao has been unable to find a hospital with room to treat her, the Associated Press reported.
"They say there are no beds here," she told AP reporters outside a fever clinic in China’s Hebei province.
Yao and her husband said they have been met with the same response at each hospital: there is no room for another patient. After the family drove to Zhuozhou Hospital, which is an hour’s drive from Yao’s hometown, the response was the same.
"I’m furious," a tearful Yao added. "We’ve been out for a long time and I’m terrified because she’s having difficulty breathing."
And the problem exists for more than just Yao.
An ICU at Baoding No. 2 Hospital in Zhuozhou was so crowded that a medical worker instructed people wheeling in a patient from an arriving ambulance to seek care elsewhere.
"There’s no oxygen or electricity in this corridor!" the worker shouted, as the Associated Press reported. "If you can’t even give him oxygen, how can you save him?"
"If you don’t want any delays, turn around and get out quickly!" the worker added.
The region's crematoriums have echoed similar complaints.
At the Zhuozhou crematorium, furnaces are burning around the clock as workers struggle to keep up with a spike in deaths, an employee told the Associated Press.
A funeral shop worker estimated said they were burning 20 to 30 bodies a day, up from just three or four before the Chinese government dramatically loosened COVID-related restrictions on Dec. 7.
"There’s been so many people dying," said Zhao Yongsheng, a funeral worker. "They work day and night, but they can’t burn them all."
Funeral homes in China’s capital were also packed, requiring some people to travel hours away to find someone available to cremate their deceased.
"They said we’d have to wait for 10 days," a resident identified simply by the surname Liang said.
The Chinese government has reported only seven COVID-19 deaths since it loosened restrictions on Dec. 7, but absent a solution to provide quick and adequate care, China’s forecast in its battle with COVID looks grim.
China’s officially reported death toll for COVID since the global outbreak began in the final months of 2019, is a mere 5,241. For context, the official death toll in the United States is over 1.1 million.
Modeling suggests large numbers of people will continue getting infected and dying throughout Beijing and the rest of China.
Experts have forecast China will eventually experience a million to 2 million deaths over the next year, and the World Health Organization has said Beijing’s way of counting COVID-caused deaths has allowed the country to "underestimate the true death toll."
A Chinese health official said as recently as Tuesday that China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID death toll, disregarding deaths that would be attributed to COVID BS counted by countries that use a broader definition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.