Hospitals at Coronavirus Ground Zero Lack Food, Medical Supplies

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
February 19, 2020Updated: February 20, 2020

“The Wuhan No. 1 Hospital lacks vegetables and rice,” a medical staff said in a Chinese social media post on Feb. 15. “Please donate!”

In a phone call with the Chinese-language Epoch Times, a staff member at Wuhan No. 1 Hospital confirmed that they were running out of food.

Luckily, earlier this week, they received vegetables, fruits, and rice from civilian donors, so that their kitchen can now supply meals as usual to patients and medical staff.

In the past weeks, the Wuhan Tongji Hospital, Wuhan No. 6 Hospital, and Wuhan Youfu Hospital, which have been designated by authorities to treat coronavirus patients, also have begun to ask for food donations on Pinduoduo, a Chinese e-commerce platform.

The COVID-19, broadly known as the novel coronavirus, first broke out in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, in December 2019. It has since infected tens of thousands all over China.

Hubei Province was placed under lockdown before the end of January. As such, transporting medical and food supplies has become more restrictive.

Wuhan No. 1 Hospital

“About 1,600 medical staff arrived at our hospital in the past few days. … We have also received 1,000 patients who are all COVID-19 patients in critical condition,” the staff member at Wuhan No. 1 Hospital told The Epoch Times in a Feb. 18 interview.

“Two or three days ago, we suddenly didn’t have rice. Luckily, we have received donations from kind people,” the staff member said.

After the facility announced on Feb. 12 that it has been designated a dedicated COVID-19 hospital, all non-virus patients had to move out. The hospital now only treats virus patients.

On Feb. 13, state-run media Xinhua reported that ten medical staff teams from Tianjin, Yangzhou, Nanjing, and other cities arrived at the Wuhan No. 1 Hospital to take care of virus patients in critical condition.

“In our kitchen, we need to feed about 5,000 people, and cook three meals per day,” the staffer said. The kitchen recently ran out of stock for the newly added 2,600 people.

In Need of Supplies

Fu Zheng is the leader of a team at Pinduoduo that was newly created to help gather donations in support of Hubei Province, where the outbreak is most severe. He told Chinese media on Feb. 2 that the platform received requests for food supplies from four Wuhan hospitals, and decided to donate food to them for one month.

“The food [we donated] can meet the needs of about 5,000 medical staff in Wuhan,” Fu said.

Fu said the hospitals gave a list of what foods they needed based on the facilities’ daily needs.

But there were hints that Hubei Province as a whole was lacking in food supplies.

On Feb. 14, state broadcaster CCTV reported that Heilongjiang Province authorities quickly organized 3,000 tons of rice and shipped them to Hubei. On Feb. 16, the rice arrived at its destination.

And on Feb. 17, state-run outlet Xinhua reported that Jilin Province authorities gathered donations from local firms, totaling 100 tons of rice, for Wuhan. This is the second donation, after the province donated 500 tons of rice on Feb. 14. The report said that workers in Jilin worked day and night to package and ship the rice.

Meanwhile, Wuhan residents have begun to ask for food donations on social media, including rice, flour, vegetables, meat, fruits, and instant noodles.

Wuhan officials have said they have enough medical supplies.

But as early as mid-January, hospitals in Wuhan sent out requests for emergency donations of facial masks and other medical supplies.

City authorities are now the only ones allowed to receive and allocate donations from China and other countries.

Daily Life In Wuhan During Lockdown
Employees wear a protective masks whilst carrying vegetables from trucks at a hospital in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 10, 2020. (Getty Images)


Meanwhile, authorities tried to quell panic and claimed that there is enough food in Hubei.

The Wuhan No. 1 Hospital stated the calls for donations were “rumors” in a post on its official Weibo account on Feb. 15. It stated the facility had enough food and didn’t need help.

The Grain Bureau of the provincial government, in charge of managing food supplies, posted on its official website: “At present, the storage of grain in our province is enough for all residents to eat for at least a year.”

The bureau said that the reason why they received donations from Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, as well as other locations, is to meet the residents’ need for a diverse range of foods. However, all donations reported in the media thus far have been rice.