Brazilian hospitals forced to select who receives treatment

Brazilian Hospitals forced to select who receives treatment
Manaus hospital. Photo Alex Pazuello/GAM

In the states worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Espírito Santo, Pará, Ceará, and Amazonas occupancy rates of intensive care beds stand at over 70 percent. In Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, the rate stands at over 90 percent. As healthcare networks reach their capacity, hospitals are being forced to implement protocols on how to prioritize their resources — which ultimately could mean like in other global hot zones, such as New York City and Lombardy, doctors will have to decide who to save and who to let die.

The Pernambuco State Medical Council has adopted a priority scale to determine who gets an intensive care bed. The document creates a score chart according to survival chances in the short- and long-term. Depending on the score, the patient is directed to an ICU or to palliative care. Rio de Janeiro may soon follow suit, as the state is mulling over the criteria to set up priority lists and tie-breakers to determine who gets a bed or a ventilator. In the megacities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro — the two centers of the country’s outbreak — there are currently 1000 person long waiting lists for a hospital bed.

In Lombardy and New York, the saturation of healthcare networks led governments to enact strict lockdown measures. But governors in Brazil are still resisting such a move — thanks in part to the political pressure placed by President Jair Bolsonaro against lockdown measures. Just yesterday, Mr. Bolsonaro called social isolation measures “useless,” blaming them for the job crisis in Brazil.