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Patients Die Waiting Outside Shanghai’s Hospitals as Zero-COVID Lockdown Continues

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 11, 2022
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This video posted on April 8, 2022, shows a woman reportedly suffering from a spinal tumor and her family members being rejected by hospital staff as they stand outside Tongji Hospital in Shanghai. (Image: Screenshot via Weibo).

A series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai underscores the tragic consequences of China’s unrelenting pursuit of a “Zero-COVID” approach amid an escalating outbreak in its financial capital, which is home to 26 million people.

Multiple patients have died at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care facility and Tongji hospital after being refused entry by hospital staff due to pandemic guidelines, or perished while waiting to be admitted. 

Family members of those patients have taken to social media to express their frustrations and despair over the fatal neglect of their loved ones. 

Others have posted desperate calls for help as they demand to see surveillance video from inside the facilities after getting little to no information from the hospital and receiving no updates on their loved ones for days on end. 

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The man can be seen running after the ambulance as he begs for help. (Video: via Twitter)

In one video, an elderly man is seen trying to chase after an ambulance while a woman lies in a hospital bed outside of Tongji Hospital in Shanghai. The couple can be seen crying and begging for the ambulance to stop and take them to the hospital as the man falls on the ground.

The man can be heard pleading with an officer who is on the phone, saying “We are human too, help us please!”

Another man, apparently a hospital employee, can then be heard telling them: “We’ve treated her already,” he says nonchalantly. “You can’t stay here,” before leaving the scene. 

Hospitals in overdrive

The Weibo user who posted the above video said that an ER doctor who claimed to have treated the patient sent him a private message claiming that the patient was suffering from a spinal tumor. When she went to the hospital for treatment, she was reportedly given pain medication and told to seek help at another hospital because they were overcrowded and could not take in any more patients. 

The conditions and deaths at Tongji hospital are a sharp rebuke of China’s “Zero-COVID” policy as it deals with a worsening outbreak in Shanghai in which most of the infected people don’t have symptoms or require hospitalization. While authorities focus on forcing positive cases and close contacts into designated collective quarantine facilities, the costs of the country’s COVID protocols are beginning to outweigh the risk of getting sick.

‘Ambulances don’t come, patients are dying.’

In another video, a caption in Chinese reads: “No one cares for patients now. The ambulances don’t come. Patients are dying.” (Video: via Twitter)

According to reports from China’s state media, in 2006, Shanghai saw an average of 320,000 people going to hospitals for emergencies per day, with 80,000 of such patients being admitted, and 1,560 surgeries performed each day. 

Going by official statistics, China is suffering its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic. However, the Communist Party’s stringent “zero-COVID” policies have paralyzed its medical system and incurred severe losses to the national economy. Many locked-down residents have since died as hospitals are forced to shut down or are in overdrive, and unable to accept new patients. 

‘Is this how you treat expecting mothers?!’

A woman posting anonymously on Twitter said that her father-in-law passed away while waiting to be admitted to a hospital in Shanghai. “He was waiting to die,” she said. (Video: via Twitter)

The Chinese post read: “Our elderly father had a heart attack last night. We couldn’t find an ambulance that was willing to come due to the lockdowns. Finally, an ambulance from another district came to us but no hospital in the area was allowed to admit him and he passed away while waiting for help.” 

The woman can be heard telling them: “I was approved to go to the hospital! I am a pregnant resident. Is this how you treat expecting mothers?!” (Video: via Twitter)

A video shows a pregnant woman who was approved to seek medical treatment by her neighborhood’s “committee for medical treatment,” but on her way to the hospital, she was chased down and harassed by pandemic staff believing her to be outside without authorization. 

According to several reports, most of Shanghai’s hospitals have been closed due to the country’s COVID guidelines, with only people exhibiting serious COVID symptoms being admitted. In addition, caretakers who come into contact with the virus are being taken away to be quarantined, in adherence to pandemic regulations, resulting in a severe depletion of hospital staff.

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A woman can be seen crying in agony and pleading for her life outside the gate of her community home in another video. A man explains that the woman had tested positive for COVID-19 but no one offers her any help. Another bystander can be heard asking her to put her mask on properly. (Video: via Twitter)