MADRID – Health system braces for second wave

The number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has been increasing over recent weeks in Spain and now account for 7.5% of all patients, compared to 4% just 20 days ago, Dr. Antonio Román, a director at the Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona, told EFE.

Measuring ICU occupancy is the best way to analyse the health risk of the pandemic, says Dr Román, and the latest data from the health ministry shows that there are currently 8,658 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country, 1,181 of which are in ICU, EFE reported.

The Spanish health ministry confirms that, despite the rise in cases, the number of positive tests is slowing and the fatality rate remains low, contrary to the patterns observed between March and May. But Dr. Marc San, who works at the Hospital de la Princesa in the Spanish capital Madrid, has a less optimistic take on the situation.

“I believe there are reasons enough to think that what we lived through in March will not happen again,” Román told EFE. Back in March, 700 of the 1,000 beds in the Vall d’Hebron hospital were occupied by COVID-19 patients, while in September that figure is around 40.

This level permits a balanced ratio of admissions and discharges and does not impede the hospital’s primary functions, explained Román.

In Madrid, however, around 19% of hospital patients were admitted for COVID-19, more than double the national average and many healthcare workers in the region fear that “we’re going back to how it was before.”

And although new doctors have been specifically hired to bolster ICUs, Dr San complained that many new doctors have been hired on so-called “COVID contracts”, which expire at the end of the year.

San has also criticised local government for having failed to draw up a contingency plan, noting that “the fact that it’s getting worse is purely a political decision.”

Primary care, which plays a vital role in detecting and containing coronavirus cases, is also suffering a shortage of staff, though this varies from region to region.

“Primary care is worse than what it was in February, before the first wave began,” said Dr Javier Padilla, a GP in Madrid who used to handle around 40 appointments a day, but is now dealing with about 70.

Health workers in Madrid will be striking from 28 September. “I hope there is a strike, because we can’t keep working like this,” Dr San has said. (Antonia Méndez Ardila, EFE)

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