Chronicle of an announced collapse

In case of requiring hospitalization for COVID-19 in Michoacán, call 800 123 2890 or the 911 emergency line

By Rodrigo Caballero

Hospital collapse. Morelia.- Those who were there assured that the tsunami that destroyed the coasts of 14 countries along the Indigo Ocean -in 2004- was one of the most unexpected and devastating events of the previous decade.

Testimonies from countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka stated that the water disappeared from the beaches of the entire region and, for a few moments, only sand could be seen on the horizon during that December 26 morning.

Hundreds of tourists and residents came to contemplate the event without suspecting that it was the prelude to disaster, minutes later waves of up to 30 meters flooded the beaches, leaving more than 200 thousand people dead and countless material damage.

No one had warned them that a giant wave was going to destroy their lives, they never suspected the consequences of walking towards danger, instead of seeking refuge from the contingency.

The wave of infections that now affects dozens of countries, among which England, Italy, the United States and Mexico stand out, is not like the one that affected the shores of indigo in 2004, this second wave was announced from the beginning of the pandemic.

The peak of infections with the subsequent hospital collapse was one of the main concerns since the detection of the novel coronavirus in December 2019, it was the worst scenario that we wanted to avoid and that now appears at our doors.

Now thousands of people line up outside hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and oxygen supply centers hoping to buy their loved ones a chance to live, it is the chronicle of the collapse that they warned us about.

The pain that takes your breath away

Mrs. Santitos, as she is known among the inhabitants of the Río Bello community south of the city of Morelia, was already connected to oxygen when they came to notify her that her mother had died in similar conditions.

She had spent several days trying to cure her mother of the cough that would not leave her, until she caught the same virus and ended up being the one who needed someone else to take care of her in her own home.

One night she was told that her mother had become yet another victim of the pandemic. The pain she felt at her death worsened her health condition, to the extent that she needed to be urgently hospitalized.

“She felt like the pain got inside her,” said her daughter, “she told me that the pain had gotten into her and it wouldn’t let her breathe, I think that if she had been able to get the pain out, she wouldn’t have run out of air”.

While Doña Santitos was bedridden with an oxygen tank attached to her nose, her family began the journey of searching for a place where she would be admitted, amid a shortage of places for the treatment of COVID-19.

First, they ruled out the private hospitals of Morelia: Hospital Ángeles and Star Médica due to their high cost – up to a million pesos in their treatments – and also because they have been saturated since December 26, 2020.

Other cheaper private clinics had a waiting list of up to 20 people and public hospitals kept their patients waiting outside until a spot was available.

Her family knocked on the doors of private doctors who denied her the service due to lack of supplies and fear of contagion, as well as specialists who channeled her to the same hospitals that had already rejected her due to lack of space.

On January 8, 2021, the expected news arrived: a doctor known to the family had managed to find a place for Mrs. Santitos, but by the time the ambulance went to look for her, she had already reunited with her mother. She had passed away.

That day she added to the 3,000 deaths from SARS-CoV-2 registered in Michoacán and the 37,681 infections, according to figures released by the Ministry of Health on January 17, 2021.

We fought it at home

Almost seven hours passed until Miguel’s family decided to stop insisting, a few minutes later it was announced on the news what it had taken them an entire afternoon to find out: all the hospitals in the city of Morelia were at 100 percent capacity.

“We went back, we fought it at home, we didn’t really know what to do but we knew that if we kept waiting outside the hospital my brother would die in the car,” said Miguel’s older brother.
Hypertensive, with a family history of diabetes and overweight, Miguel was among the population most at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, causing him to isolate himself for most of 2020.

“We all isolated ourselves as much as we could, some of us worked temporarily when we saw that the infections decreased and then we isolated ourselves again, but we have to work, if we don’t work then there is no food, it’s that simple.”

The family of merchants, who go to ambulant markets to sell bale clothing, adapted as much as they could to the restrictions imposed by the Government of Michoacán during the quarantine that began on March 23, 2020.

But, as soon as they realized that it would not be 15 days or a month of isolation, they began to worry about the flow of money, especially when the debts of the rent of their house were accumulating and it was not clear when they would return to normal.

The family continued to sell clothes for the rest of 2020 and managed to get trough during the “Buen Fin” event, something very similar to Black Friday in the United States, however, some family members began to get sick during the last week of December and for the “Día de Reyes”, a Latin American holiday where children receive toys, there were already five members who had symptoms.

Miguel began to feel a fever on January 8, however the discomforts disappeared for days and it seemed that he was not going to have complications. Despite this, on January 13 the fever did not let him get up and the next day the oximeter registered a level so low that he had to be taken to the emergency room.

Hours later, the saturation of the two hospitals of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) in Morelia was announced, as well as the Institute of Social Security and Services of State Workers (ISSSTE) and the Civil Hospital.

“Well, what were we going to do? We had to fight trough, we got oxygen, we got some medicines, medicines that have not been in short supply and we have at home, here at home with the doctor who attends us on WhatsApp, that’s what we had to do” said Miguel’s brother, who continues to cling to life.

All without exception

On January 5, 2021, “Gilberto” arrived at his work area at Hospital Civil “Dr. Miguel Silva ”to find that he no longer worked there, he had been moved along with all the personnel without exception to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus

“They released an epidemiology document to all the heads of hospital services so that they could introduce all the staff to the COVID area,” said “Gilberto”, who to protect his source of work preferred to remain anonymous.

The document, of which 20/20 News has a copy, ensures that the purpose is to improve care for patients with COVID-19, as well as to alleviate the workload of medical personnel who have been treating the pandemic since April 2020.

The order was not only given in the Civil Hospital, “Gilberto” assured that his colleagues in municipalities such as Pátzcuaro, Uruapan, Cherán, Los Reyes, La Piedad, Zamora and Lázaro Cárdenas also received similar orders to try to reduce the workload of peers and maintain hospital capacity to the maximum.

“They mobilized all of us, the truth is that it is sad because we see that the pandemic is having a serious impact, even stronger than at the beginning, with more deaths and hospitalized, that was not seen in the worst phase in June or in November when there was also a peak”, said“ Gilberto ”.

When asked why, “Gilberto” points to the theory that most people share: the holidays are taking the bill from those who disobeyed the rules of confinement.

“The truth is that it is very sad to see that Facebook seems to be a list of the dead and there seem to be many people, many of my contacts even, who are asking for information, who speak to me and ask me to help them enter someone into the hospital and then you remember that they were celebrating Christmas like if nothing,” said “Gilberto.”

Time proves him right, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), SARS-CoV-2 takes between 5 and 15 days to affect its host, which means that most of those who now need Beds were infected during the holidays of December 24 and January 1.

However, that is only part of the story, on January 11 the Latinus news portal published information about a failure in the oxygen system that could have caused 36 deaths at the Morelia IMSS located on Camelinas Avenue.

According to anonymous testimony, the oxygen supply was stopped during the first weekend of the year at the Zone 83 General Hospital, which would have resulted in the death of several COVID-19 patients.

“That is a federal hospital, we are state-owned, so I could not assure you that this has happened, what I can tell you is that we do not have what we need to work, we lack supplies, we do not have the tools, well, sometimes not not even vitamin C or D, so there can be cases where supplies fail, of course,” said “Gilberto.”

Thus, Michoacán reaches its fourth week breaking records with an average of 280 new infections and 17 deaths a day since the beginning of 2021, in the midst of the collapse of the hospital system, an event that was tried to avoid at the beginning of the pandemic.

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