A woman whose husband died in an IMSS hospital in Tula, Hidalgo, on Tuesday has questioned why authorities didn’t do more to prevent the tragedy.
Severe flooding cut electricity to General Hospital No. 5 and caused a system supplying oxygen to COVID-19 patients to stop functioning.
IMSS director Zoé Robledo said Wednesday that 14 patients died as a result of the inundation and that two others died just before water from the Tula River flooded the facility.
After receiving a call from her hospitalized husband, Catalina García left her home in Tepeji del Río at 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday and obtained an oxygen concentrator before traveling to the flooded area surrounding the hospital, according to a report by the newspaper Reforma.
She then boarded a boat and an hour later managed to enter the hospital where her husband, 30-year-old José Manuel Hernández Gante, had been receiving treatment for COVID-19.
But her husband had already died. Even if she had arrived before his passing, the oxygen machine she took to the hospital could not have saved his life because there was no functioning electricity source to connect it to.
(Water entering the hospital not only flooded patients’ wards but damaged a generator which would have provided an alternative power supply for the oxygen machines on which patients were dependent.)
“If I got there, why couldn’t anyone else? Nobody took any notice of the oxygen they were all asking for, that’s why they died,” García, a mother of three, told Reforma outside a Hidalgo funeral home.
“They didn’t want to help them, they let them die there, nobody did anything,” she said.
“… If they knew that water was coming in why didn’t they do anything? Why didn’t they move [the patients]? … Why didn’t they take precautions?” García asked.
“[I want] justice to be served, … it was negligence because they didn’t do anything,” she said, adding that she spoke with patients at the hospital.
“They told me that they took them out … when the water was already up to their necks, that when [the hospital] started to flood they did nothing, only said Lift your feet up, nothing will happen, it doesn’t flood here,’” García said.
In a video message posted to social media on Wednesday, Robledo said that neither the hospital’s management nor IMSS officials in Hidalgo received a warning that the facility could be flooded.
“The torrential rain in Hidalgo, México state and Mexico City caused a sudden rise … of the Tula River that caused it to overflow at a point near the hospital,” the IMSS chief said.
“Unfortunately, the [hospital] personnel wasn’t warned officially or informally of the phenomenon and its potential. It was a sudden disaster; in a matter of minutes it put the whole city under water, including our hospital,” Robledo said.
He said that 46 IMSS hospitals have been evacuated over the past three years due to imminent risks but that wasn’t possible on Tuesday morning.
“This case was different, there was no time for anticipation,” Robledo said, adding that he had spoken with hospital personnel and they all talked about the suddenness with which the flooding occurred.
“From 10:00 p.m. [Monday], when it started to rain, until the electricity was cut at about midnight, when the hospital’s emergency generator began working, personnel were taking patients up to the top floor,” he said.
“They said that at 3 in the morning, in a period of approximately 20 minutes, the level of water increased suddenly and paralyzed the hospital’s emergency generator,” Robledo said.
He said that a total of 54 patients were in the hospital when the flooding occurred, including 22 COVID patients, 14 of whom died due to a lack of oxygen.
Five patients were subsequently discharged while the remainder were transferred to other health care facilities in Hidalgo.
With reports from Reforma