Fifth doctor from Wuhan hospital dies from Covid-19 after long battle

Alice Yan

A fifth doctor from Wuhan Central Hospital, where late Covid-19 whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang worked, has died from the disease.

Hu Weifeng, a 42-year-old urologist, died on Tuesday morning after contracting the coronavirus four months ago, state news agency Xinhua reported. Hu is survived by his wife and two sons.

Four other doctors from the hospital in Wuhan – the city where the deadly illness was first reported in December – have died from Covid-19.

Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist who was silenced by police for sounding the alarm about the new virus, died from the disease in February, prompting an outpouring of grief and anger at the authorities in China, and calls for freedom of speech.

In early March, two of Li’s colleagues in ophthalmology, Mei Zhongming, 57, and Zhu Heping, 67, died after contracting the virus, and Jiang Xueqing, 55, head of thyroid and breast surgery, also died.

At least 69 medical staff at the hospital had tested positive for the virus by February 9, according to news site The Paper. This was put down to the medical workers not wearing protective equipment at the early stage of the outbreak, as the virus quickly spread across the city in January.

Hu was infected in the middle of January, but his symptoms were severe and his condition rapidly deteriorated, according to state broadcaster CCTV. In early February, doctors turned to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, a technique that provides life support for patients suffering respiratory and cardiac failure. He was removed from the machine in late March, and in mid-April he had recovered enough for his breathing tube to be removed and he was transferred out of intensive care, where he had been for nearly three months.

Severe flu alert as coronavirus weakens medical systems

But on April 22, he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He underwent surgery and had been in a coma until he died, according to a senior doctor from the Sino-French New City Branch of Wuhan Tongji Hospital, where Hu was treated.

“We operated to remove the fluid from his brain on Saturday,” said the doctor, who declined to be named since she was not authorised to talk to the media.

Images of Hu and another doctor, Yi Fan, had appeared in Chinese media after their skin turned black because of liver damage after they were infected with the virus. Yi, from Wuhan Central Hospital’s heart surgery unit, recovered and was discharged last month.

Back in January – before Chinese authorities confirmed that the virus was being transmitted between humans – Hu had warned another doctor at the hospital to avoid gatherings and stop playing team sport. Duan Xin, captain of the hospital football team, told Pear Video website that “Dr Hu said he couldn’t tell me the explicit reason – we’d heard there was an outbreak but we weren’t aware it was so serious [at the time]”.

In February, experts from a China-World Health Organisation joint mission said 3,387 medical workers had been infected by the virus – 90 per cent of them in Hubei, the province where Wuhan is located. More than 4,600 people have died from Covid-19 in China, according to official figures.

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