LivingCoronavirus crisis: the daily life of health workers in...

Coronavirus crisis: the daily life of health workers in Spain

Every afternoon, around 8:00 p.m., Spanish citizens have an appointment. They cannot leave their homes except for important errands, but Spanish society manages to lean out of their window, terrace or balcony to make a very simple gesture: clap. The applause is his tribute to all the people who, with their work, facilitate the complicated situation of the state of alarm due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.

Dafne is a nurse and works at Hospital Santa Bárbara de Soria, a very old city in Castilla y Leon. “There are a lot of older people here. The plant they set up was filling up; later, urology, trauma, surgery were filled … The hospital is full, even the offices; everything is COVD-19. We are collapsed, we cannot cope. The income is constant , and there are also young people. You send someone home and in ten minutes your room fills up again ”.

The situation described by Dafne is not very different from that of other hospitals in Spain, and Madrid is the most affected by collapses, which has centralized emergencies for other pathologies , such as gynecology, obstetrics, and delivery rooms in four hospitals: La Paz , the Gregorio Marañón, on October 12 and the Puerta de Hierro. María is 27 years old and a midwife: “In Madrid, midwives are being relocated as nurses. Resources are being pulled from where they can, and we have not yet reached a total collapse ”. The same goes for other specialties. According to Julia, an ophthalmology resident at the San Carlos Clinic in Madrid: “At any time they call us to be on duty in the ICU: there are five wings of the hospital enabled for it.”

At the Prince of Asturias Hospital in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), a gastric surgeon who does not want to reveal his name confirms this situation: “With the hospital overloaded with patients, we have to continue treating the usual patients, cancer patients awaiting surgery, surgeries of another type … They are at home waiting and have a decrease in their quality of life. If we normally operate on 100 patients a week, now it is on the order of three, four or five … never more than ten ”. This is an avalanche of patients that nobody counted on. A stressful situation for health workers, who have the added problem of having to protect certain patients who come to the hospital for other pathologies: “We try not to contact patients with those who are positive for coronavirus, but there are times when they share the same plant ”Confirms the surgeon.

The responsibility for this collapse, for him, is never the patient: “People are never guilty of what happens to them, or of going to the health center they consider if they are not well. Social alarm and doubts have led to this situation ”.

On the other hand, not all patients who possibly have coronavirus can test positive for COVID-19, because there are no tests available for everyone , not even for health workers, who also fall ill. Jorge, a geriatric resident at the Red Cross: “We are going downhill a bit, and we have to organize ourselves because little by little our colleagues are falling. But little by little there is more organization and things are getting better ”.

The main problem with COVID-19 tests is that the results take 24 hours to obtain. Until the announced rapid tests are implemented, many people with symptoms are not tested, and are sent home or remain in the hospital. “The only people who are tested are those who go to admission. While waiting for the results, that person remains in hospital for 24 hours ”, recalls the nurse from Soria.

On the other hand, it is obvious to conclude that the impossibility of carrying out a test on all those affected implies that the real figures would be much higher than the official ones.

Material shortage

While waiting for the arrival of rapid tests in Spanish hospitals, health workers have a well-standardized equipment and protocol; but they lack material. Dafne describes to Muy Interesante what her daily equipment is: “I wear my usual gown, and on top of it another surgical gown that is changed every day; on top of it all, a plastic apron; in addition, double mask and double glove. When leaving a room, and before entering another, you have to take off the apron, you spray yourself with bleach and water, and continue ”.

But there are not enough approved masks for everyone who needs them: “We wear the same FFP3 mask throughout the week and, above all, a surgical one that is daily. It makes me very angry to see people on the street with super good masks when we don’t have to protect people here ”.

Deceased in solitude

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that causes serious complications in between 5 and 15% of those affected. The older the patient and the greater the history of previous pathologies, the more likely they are to suffer serious consequences and even death. This is undoubtedly the bitterest side of the COVID-19 situation.

“There are elderly people who are dying who cannot be tested,” says Dafne. ” When someone dies, family members cannot fire them , they cannot see their loved one; if anything, they can peek a bit through the glass. There are many grandparents who are dying alone and without time to test them.”

In this delicate situation of health crisis, many people in Spain are afraid of the so-called ‘triage medicine’; that is, a protocol of action that is applied in emergencies and natural disasters, and that consists of prioritizing younger patients, who are more likely to survive, when applying treatments. But both Dafne and the Madrid surgeon deny that patients are being operated on in a different way than usual.

In any case, the situation is at the limit: ” The feeling we all have is that decision-making is behind the pandemic, ” says the surgeon from Alcalá de Henares. “It is great for all of us,” Dafne says.

A hospital with 5,500 beds in 18 hours

All health services, public and private, are focused on the management of the coronavirus. IFEMA, the Madrid fairgrounds that hosted the Climate Summit last December (COP25), is now a 5,500-bed hospital complex, organized in the record time of 18 hours . COP25 was organized in 18 days.

The Chinese Government and also the Spanish private sector are donating medical supplies to Spanish hospitals. Meanwhile, other professionals in cleaning, food, security, transportation … work every day to allow people, confined to their homes, to continue to supply themselves safely. For Spain, this is not only a health crisis, but also an economic one.

For the moment, for the rest of the citizens, it only remains to comply with the isolation measures to try to flatten the famous contagion curve: stay home, read, and do not forget your daily appointment on the balcony.

From Muy Interesante, we offer free access to our magazines in digital format at this link.

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