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Russian Doctors Are Dying on the Front Lines; Coronavirus

MOSCOW — Dr. Rimma Kamalova says her hospital’s leadership ignored her warnings about an unexplained pneumonia outbreak back in March. She kept working.

The hospital admitted more than 50 people for planned procedures the day that the staff learned a deceased patient had tested positive for the coronavirus, records show. She kept working.

The hospital was ordered quarantined, with Dr. Kamalova and more than 1,200 other staff members and patients trapped inside. Days later, she grew feverish, but she kept working, relying on her own intravenous line for relief.

“Give yourself a drip, get up, treat, lie down, give yourself another drip, get up, treat,” Dr. Kamalova, head of the rheumatology department at Kuvatova Republican Clinical Hospital in the south-central Russian city of Ufa, said in a telephone interview. “You had no choice.”

Russia is hailing its medical workers as heroes, their photographs plastered on billboards and their stories glamorized on state TV. But as the country develops into one of the global epicenters of the disease, those workers are suffering astonishing levels of infection and death in their ranks.

At one top Moscow hospital, a department head said that 75 percent of the department’s staff was sick. In St. Petersburg, 1,465 health care workers have caught the virus, the governor said on Wednesday, accounting for more than one in six of the city’s total cases.

Russia’s health minister, Mikhail Murashko, said on Wednesday that 400 Russian hospitals had suffered outbreaks of the coronavirus.

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