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Liu Zhiming, 51, director of the Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, has died of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), according to a statement released by local government authorities.
Liu was a neurosurgeon in the hospital located at the epicenter of the virus outbreak. He was in critical condition for a few days before passing away on February 18.
Plight of medical workers
Liu’s death has sparked criticism over the lack of protection provided to frontline medical workers. These workers are said to not only risk their own lives to save others but are also exhausted from working long hours due to high patient volumes.
On February 18, state media reported that the doctors and nurses who pass in efforts to contain the outbreak will be officially designated as “martyrs."
On the same day, 1,303 coronavirus cases were reported among medical workers, bringing the total to more than 3,000 cases, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC). The Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) said at a news conference that a total of 1,716 medical workers had been confirmed to be infected. As of February 14, six had passed away.
Medical gear shortage
Hospitals in China have been facing a medical supply crunch, struggling with a shortage of protective suits, masks and goggles. Some doctors have even resorted to using raincoats and plastic bags as protection for treatment.
“We already ran out of protective suits a few days ago, and now we are using disposable raincoats to offer minimum protection,” said a doctor at Xiaogan First People’s Hospital in Hubei province, where most of the infected cases have been reported. According to a Reuters translated report from the country’s NHC, Chinese medical professionals are urged to use protective gear reasonably.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the hoarding of protective gear such as masks, gowns and gloves along with other medical protection gear. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sent six metric tons of respiratory masks and protective suits to health workers in China on January 29.
According to state media, the worst-hit city is Xiaogan, which was facing a shortfall of 24,000 protective suits, 60,000 masks, as well as 15,000 goggles and face shields at the beginning of February.