The country in South of America, Ecuador, amid the coronavirus pandemic has been facing a total collapse in its health system as the frontline medics in the Ecuadoran city were piling up dead bodies in bathrooms because the morgues are full, reports emerged.
A medic reported AFP that doctors have been forced to wrap up and store corpses to be able to reuse the beds they died on.
At least 23,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded with nearly 600 deaths in Ecuador, with Guayaquil – its worst affected city. Health experts said that the real toll is thought to be far higher.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a 35-year-old nurse working at a hospital said that the suffering of what he witnessed had affected him in the worst way both professionally and personally.
He stated that when the health emergency commenced in March, every nurse went from caring for 15 patients to 30 in the space of just 24 hours.
“So many people arrived that… they were practically dying in our hands,” said the nurse adding that the patients were discharged or referred to other facilities “to free up all these beds” for coronavirus patients”.
“They took out anesthesia machines from operating rooms to replace them with ventilators,” said the nurse.
“People are alone, sad, the treatment creates havoc on the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), some defecate; they feel bad and think they will always feel that way, and they see that the person next to them starts suffocating and screaming that they need oxygen.”
“It isn’t just hospitals that have been overwhelmed, but morgues too,” he said adding that,” the morgue staff wouldn’t take any more, so many times we had to wrap up bodies and store them in the bathrooms”.
Only when the bodies were “stacked up to six or seven high, they come to collect them.”
At the hospital, refrigerated containers were brought in to store bodies, some of which remained for up to 10 days.
Some family members “break the covers… so the fluids come out. It’s a sanitary disaster,” said the 35-year-old male nurse.
Another nurse, the 26-year-old colleague confirmed the chaotic scenes in the health centre saying that “there were many dead in the bathrooms, many lying on the floors, many dead in armchairs”.
In the first half of April, the province of Guayas, whose capital is Guayaquil— the epicenter of COVID-19 has recorded 6,700 deaths, more than three times the monthly average.
The difference indicates that the death toll from coronavirus, in reality, is far higher than the official nationwide tally of fewer than 600 which has also been acknowledged by President Lenin Moreno.
At a second Guayaquil hospital, a 28-year-old doctor who also insisted on anonymity, also told about the crisis in health services saying that the dead bodies were left in the corridors of the emergency ward because the morgue was full”.
He told AFP that 20 to 25 corpses left on waiting at the corridors to be taken away.
The doctor further revealed, “It was up to us to collect and wrap the corpse and store it so we could disinfect the bed for the next patient”.
The number of daily deaths in Ecuador fell last week but that was little relief for this nurse, who says he is distressed by what he has experienced so far as when he goes home, after a 24-hour shift, his feet hurting, he tries to rest but then the “nightmare” uncomforts him.
He dreams of running until he falls and knocks “open the bathroom door with the number of bodies…and you can’t go back to sleep.”
The home life of the nurse has also changed while following strict isolation, he is unable to see his family.
When he goes home he begins his ritual of disinfecting his car and shoes, hosing himself down on the patio before washing his clothes in hot water.
“I eat on a plastic table away from everyone. I leave my home with a mask, I can’t hug anyone, not even the pets,” he said.
Every now and then, the nurse thinks about the psychological effect left on him every time he has to make do with hooking patients to cannula tubes when what they really need is a ventilator.
“They tell you, ‘It’s okay – give them oxygen and a slow drip serum and leave them,’” he said.
“But what if that was my mom? What if it was my dad? That kills you. It kills you psychologically.”
The news agency also sought comment from health authorities in Guayaquil but did not get a reply.
A national public health authority official told AFP that he had been in an emergency unit in Guayaquil where bodies were piled up.
“A morgue for eight deceased persons and you have to manage 150 bodies, what can you do? You have to put them anywhere nearby that you have space,” he said.
He said coronavirus cases in Guayaquil jumped up dramatically and rapidly in a matter of days, overwhelming an inadequate emergency healthcare system.