Scenes from Wuhan’s Makeshift Hospitals for Coronavirus Patients: Like a ‘Death Camp’

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 7, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020

“There is no medicine, no medical staff, no hot water, very limited food, no heating, unstable electricity… Please help us!” said one patient who was being confined at a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, where the coronavirus first broke out. In a Feb. 6 video posted onto social media, the patient can be heard saying, “This in fact is a death camp!”

Since Feb. 5, the Wuhan government began sending coronavirus patients with mild or moderate symptoms to these makeshift hospitals—called “fangcang” facilities in Chinese—which have been set up in over a dozen stadiums, school gyms, and exhibition centers across the city.

Since the policy was put in place, more and more patients published videos capturing the scenes at these facilities, where there is a lack of treatment and unsanitary conditions. 

Some are on the edge of a mental breakdown, and began to destroy furniture out of frustration and anger. Some even began fighting with each other.

Manager Tells the Truth

In another widely circulated Feb. 6 video, a man introduces himself as the manager of a makeshift hospital.

“I’m the person in charge of this place,” he says to a group of patients and their relatives. “In fact, I can tell you, this is only a quarantine place, not a hospital. No one will take responsibility if something bad happens.”

A relative asks him, “If my mom needs an injection, who can help her?” The manager replies, “We can’t resolve such needs because we don’t have medical equipment.”

One patient asks, “What will happen after I finish my medicine?” The manager answered,  “You have to tell your relatives and ask them to bring the medicine here and hand it to the medical staff here. They will then bring the medicine to you.”

The manager repeatedly explained the situation thus: “We have some medical staff, but we don’t have any medical devices. We can’t treat the patients… You need to stay here calmly and be quarantined.”

In the end, the manager told the patients: “The key point is that you can’t leave here after you’ve entered. Sending you here is to prevent infections [to healthy people]… Relatives, please don’t enter.”

Patients Plead for Help

On Feb. 6 early morning, an elderly patient posted a video where she asks for help. She said that around midnight, she was transferred to a makeshift facility set up inside the Hongshan Stadium.

“Here, there is no bathroom, no medicine, no hot water, no place to wash hands. The only restroom is located outside, which is more than 200 meters [656 feet] away from the building. It’s raining heavily right now,” she said.

“I thought I could receive good treatment after entering a hospital. But the result is just the opposite,” she complained. “Here, it’s full of patients like me. Some have more severe symptoms than me. We must have cross-infected each other.”

The lady said hundreds of patients are staying inside the stadium. Some don’t have a bed and are forced to sleep on a mattress placed on the floor.

“Please save us!” the woman cried.

A Wuhan netizen posted photos that her mother took at the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center, which was converted to accommodate hospital beds. The bathrooms strewn with garbage, as no one is cleaning the facility, the netizen wrote in her post.

She added that the exhibition center was very cold; the roughly one thousand patients inside did not have enough clothes and blankets to warm themselves. The electricity also shut down, so patients couldn’t charge their devices.

In another video, patients can be heard coughing heavily, while others could not stand straight. But there were no medical staff who attended to them.

In yet another shared on Feb. 6, an elderly woman is seen kicking chairs and crying for medicine. The video post said the woman became angry because there were no basic supplies and medical staff. 

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) first broke out in Wuhan, located in central China’s Hubei Province, in early December 2019. Tens of thousands have been infected within China, while dozens of countries are also reporting cases.

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.