A relative of a COVID-19 patient posted a video taken inside an Egyptian hospital’s intensive care unit, where he alleged that several of the patients had died due to lack of oxygen in the hospital’s central tank.
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The video taken in the intensive care unit at El Husseineya Central Hospital was posted late on Saturday night. It shows seven patients in beds and the nurses’ attempts to help at least one of them by pumping oxygen through a hand-operated ambu bag, a manual ventilator. A voice can be heard on the video saying “everyone in the ICU has died… there’s no oxygen.”
The city of El Husseineya is located in northeast Egypt in the Sharkia governorate, 151 km northeast of Cairo.
Ahmed Mamdouh, who shot the video, confirmed on his personal Facebook page that people had been warning since Thursday of the lack of oxygen and called for help on Friday when they discovered that the oxygen pressure continued to decrease.
The minister of health in official statements has rejected the allegations of a lack of oxygen but, meanwhile, many people have circulated on social media a picture from the video of one of the nurses sitting on the floor, in shock and horror, seeming to have lost her ability to move after the death of the patients.
“After 9:30 p.m., the oxygen pressure suddenly decreased, and the cases suffocated, and we tried every way to help them and failed because their condition was already deteriorating before the lack of oxygen. I work 12 hours every day; what happened yesterday was a terrible pressure on me because I witnessed this much death,” nurse Aya Ali told the Al-Watan Arabic-language newspaper.
“I was not afraid, but I was exhausted and grieving for these lost lives. We did everything we could and more to save the sick, but we failed,” she added.
The hospital director said that the current policy of reducing oxygen pressure to the network tank is problematic for critical cases of COVID-19.
Authorities say that the number of deaths in that ICU is four, while local sources have confirmed that the number is higher.
This is not the first such incident since the beginning of the year. At least two people died in a similar incident in a hospital in the Gharbia governorate, north of Cairo.
The Egyptian Public Prosecution announced that it is investigating what happened in the two governorates.
“We do not have a shortage of oxygen because we are a big hospital in the center of Cairo. But, to be honest, a problem occurred a short while ago, which is that the Heart Academy Hospital in central Cairo had a problem with lack of oxygen and they transported all the patients quickly to us, which saved the situation, and no one died.” Dr. Marwa N. told The Media Line.
On the heels of the news of an alleged shortage of oxygen, the Najrij Charitable Association announced that Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian professional soccer star playing in for the Premier League club Liverpool had donated a tank and a large oxygen network to Basyoun Central Hospital in the Gharbia Governorate, to help the people of his village.
“But we have other kinds of internal and financial problems, such as the lack of funding to buy the necessary medicines for patients. … When important figures such as the minister of health visit the hospital, money suddenly appears and they renew the marble for the entrances and stairs and new paint for the hospital, but when we need to buy medicines the administration answers us by saying there is no money to buy medicines,” Dr. N. added.
“Yes, there are many hospitals suffering from a shortage of oxygen, and it happened in the hospital I work in when something happened in the oxygen network one day, but we caught the matter and the specialist technician succeeded in repairing the malfunction without any human losses,” Dr. Karim Ali, director of a hospital in northeast Cairo, told The Media Line.
“The intensive care unit in the hospital in which I work has only 10 beds, 4 of them have ventilators. If there is no ventilator available for a patient in critical condition, we provide the patient with oxygen manually through an ambu bag,” he added.
The Ministry of Health spokesman announced that the total number of coronavirus cases in Egypt as of Monday is 143,464 cases, including 114,601 cases that have recovered, and 7,863 deaths
The Egyptian Medical Syndicate says on its official Facebook page that at least 282 doctors have died from COVID-19 in Egypt, including 264 in 2020.
“These are not the only problems of the medical sector in Egypt. Hospital workers are also bribed in order to obtain places for patients,” Dr. Mohamed Ahmed, deputy director of a hospital in north Cairo, told The Media Line.
There are corruption networks inside hospitals, starting from allowing patients’ relatives to visit to reserving beds for patients, Ahmed explained. The hospital staff member tells the doctor that the person infected with the coronavirus is his cousin or his aunt, for example. Such people are known as a “cases dealer,” he said.
Ahmed said that when such a case comes to him, he tries to evaluate the patient away from the dealer, to determine if the sick person needs to be in the hospital or not.
“I park my car far from the hospital because it is an easy target for revenge,” Ahmed added.