South America

Peru to build hospital in the Amazon amid rise in Indigenous coronavirus patients

A doctor in a biosafety suit checks a room with COVID-19 patients at the Regional Hospital of Iquitos, in Iquitos, Peru, 07 May 2020 Source: EFE

Peru's social security body says the country will construct a hospital in the Amazon to cope with the growing number of coronavirus infections in the Indigenous population.

Peru said it will construct a fast-build hospital in the Amazon as it seeks to respond to a growing COVID-19 emergency sweeping through the Indigenous population. 

State social security body EsSalud said it expects the 100-bed hospital in Pucallpa, capital of the remote Ucayali region on the border with Brazil, to be operational within three weeks.

"EsSalud will install a fast-build hospital in Ucayali to serve COVID-19 patients," the government body said in a statement late Friday.

The Peruvian Amazon is already facing a dire emergency, with hospitals in its largest city Iquitos overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and local morgues unable to cope with the number of bodies.

The government said it would rush 220 health worker reinforcements to the Amazon.

"We have been working intensively to expand the services and provide hospitals in the Peruvian Amazon with all the necessary means to care for patients with COVID-19," said Federico Tong Hurtado, a spokesman for the social security services.

Prime Minister Gustavo Zeballos said the government would ensure the supply of oxygen and other vital medical materials via "an air and land bridge" to the region. 

Roads are practically non-existent in the Peruvian jungle and rivers are the main means of transportation. 

The government has pledged to ramp up the frequency of flights from Lima to ensure aid deliveries.

An oxygen plant will begin operating in Iquitos, capital of the neighbouring Amazon region of Loreto, on Monday, supplying a local 40-bed hospital. 

A doctor in a biosafety suit reviews a medical history in a room with COVID-19 patients at the Regional Hospital of Iquitos, in Iquitos, Peru, 07 May 2020
A doctor in a biosafety suit reviews a medical history in a room with COVID-19 patients at the Regional Hospital of Iquitos, in Iquitos, Peru, 07 May 2020
EFE

Desperate COVID-19 patients have been dying in the region's hospitals for lack of oxygen, officials say.

"The world's lung is dying from lack of oxygen and this is our sad reality," the director of Health for the Amazon Region of Loreto, Carlos Calampa, told AFP in a video call on Thursday.

Loreto, which borders Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, is the largest and least populated region in Peru but also the worst affected by the pandemic.

More than 2,250 cases of Peru's COVID-19 cases have been registered there, with 95 deaths, according to official figures. 

Church authorities in Iquitos have organized a public collection to acquire another plant to provide oxygen bottles for local hospitals.

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