The Brazilian government has come under fire for its handling of the crisis. Last week, Supreme Court Judge Ricardo Lewandowski ordered the government to submit a response plan to solve the hypoxia problem, citing the “neglectful behavior” of the Jair Bolsonaro administration in handling the emergency.
It also asserts that the local government in Amazonas has not notified federal authorities of the looming oxygen deficiency. The report stated that “the Ministry of Health … learned on January 8th through an email sent by the product manufacturer.” The report says the provider, named in the report as White Martins, notified the Amazonas state government first, then the federal authorities.
It is not clear why the federal government notified the lack of oxygen to a private contractor. According to the Attorney General’s report, the Manaus Ministry of Health has been aware that the city’s health system has been on the verge of collapsing since early January.
Manaus city officials did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.
A spokesperson for the Amazonas state government told CNN that they would provide “clarifications” to the attorney general’s office, adding that the state continues to work to alleviate the crisis, including “transporting oxygen from other states to Manaus, installing miniature oxygen in hospitals, transporting patients to help with … Other states and request all production from local oxygen suppliers. “
But the Attorney General’s report raises questions about why the federal Ministry of Health was unable to help prevent the collapse of the health care system in Manaus, having received advance notice. Ministry officials traveled to Manaus at the beginning of January, and Pazuelo visited the city in person from January 11 to January 13.
The disaster struck the city’s hospitals the next day. On January 14, Amazonas state officials announced that Manaus’ hospitals and emergency rooms were facing acute shortages of oxygen, amid soaring cases of Covid-19 virus. “We are facing a lot of difficulties in obtaining medical supplies. As everyone watches, our main difficulty now is getting oxygen,” Governor Wilson Lima told reporters.
Although the Brazilian Air Force has responded with emergency supplies of liquid and gaseous oxygen, shortages persist. Logistical problems have exacerbated the crisis, as Manaus supplies mainly enter the city via the Amazon River. There is only a highway outside the city, which connects it to the neighboring state of Amapa.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo defended his agency’s response. “We immediately took action,” he said at a press conference in Brasilia on Monday. “There was no indication of a lack of oxygen from our meetings in early January. The rise in cases was very rapid,” he said.
“when we were [visited Manaus] On [January] 4, the problem is not oxygen. The problem was the bed structure, the number of Covid-19 patients and waiting lists. “
Bolsonaro’s appointment to Pazuelo, the former military commander to lead the Ministry of Health, has been severely criticized by opponents, as Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll remains the second highest in the world, after the United States.
Bolsonaro himself has denied any responsibility for the city’s deadly crisis. “There is a problem in Manaus … We mourn the deaths from suffocation, lack of oxygen, and people blame the government. We have allocated billions to the states, but those responsible for the drug shortages are the state and municipal health,” he told his supporters on Monday.
His statement came after Vice President Hamilton Murau’s claim last week that no one could anticipate the collapse of the city’s health system.
“You cannot predict what will happen with this (viral) strain that is occurring in Manaus. It is completely different from what happened in the first half,” Morau said.
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