A patient infected with COVID-19 is treated in an intensive therapy unit of the Torrejón University Hospital, in Spain, on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. (Manu Fernandez)
Torrejón de Ardoz, Spain – With speed and determination, nurses, doctors and caregivers moved in and out of isolated rooms with beds connected to tubes, cables and monitors. The cadence of the beeps serves as background music during your workday, accompanied by constant chatter and the clicking noise of rubber gloves when staff remove them at the end of their shift.
It is another day in the intensive therapy unit of the Torrejón University Hospital, located on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, which has so far seen the worst second wave of the pandemic. However, the hospital staff consider themselves lucky: despite having to add nine intensive care beds to the usual 16, the hospital has not had to postpone the treatment of any other patients.
Many others in the region have.
Hospitals and their workers have once again been demanded to the maximum in Madrid, where the growing number of patients with COVID-19 in September caused intensive therapy beds to be placed in gyms and operating rooms. But as the number of new patients began to decline last week, healthcare professionals are dismayed by what they see as an official acceptance that the situation is far from normal.
“It cannot be that we continue in a dynamic of wave and confinement, wave and confinement, new wave in winter and new confinement in winter,” said Carlos Velayos, an intensive care physician who has seen a slight decrease in new patients with related symptoms. with the coronavirus that reach the University Hospital of Fuenlabrada, also located in the suburbs of Madrid.
At the crest of the first wave, intensive care units gave up in the face of haste, despair, and even a lack of clues about what to do. Now, well-prepared machinery saves some lives and loses others to COVID-19, but without the doomsday atmosphere that prevailed in March and April.
“It's no longer like being in a field hospital,” Velayos said. “But the reality is that we are working well beyond our normal capacity … it is an absolutely exceptional situation that we should not have reached,” he added.
While many professionals continue to assimilate the emotional impact of the first wave, they now have trouble understanding the reason why Spain has not prepared better for new outbreaks of the virus that has infected more than 825,000 people in the European nation and has killed at least 32,000.
Treatment has improved, although the time that patients with COVID-19 spend in intensive care continues to be weeks or even months, taking much-needed hospital resources, said Dr. María José García Navarro, director of the Torrejón University Hospital, where he de At the moment 49 patients are cared for, 35 in regular beds and 14 in intensive care.
Although Spain's official statistics show that the rate of new cases is slowing – the two-week infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants has dropped from 294 cases on September 29 to 273 on Tuesday – officials and experts cautioned against being complacent. . Seven months after the pandemic began, the country has not optimized the reporting of COVID-19 statistics.
Nationwide, hospital admissions have been on the rise, slowly but steadily. According to the latest official data available, more than 9% of regular beds and more than 17% of beds in intensive care units are intended for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 nationwide, although the situation is much worse in the most affected areas.