NACIÓN

Hospitals' invisible heroes doing their part in coronavirus battle

Although they do not receive the same recognition as doctors or nurses, also are on the front lines of the coronavirus battle

  • EFE
  • 04/06/2020
  • 13:54 hrs
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Hospitals invisible heroes doing their part in  coronavirus battle
An economic reactivation plan kicked off this week in Mexico. (EFE)

A group of invisible heroes work the hallways at Hospital Juarez in Mexico in this capital, a metropolis that is ground zero of the covid-19 crisis in Mexico.

Although they do not receive the same recognition as doctors or nurses, people like Manuel Aguirre, that hospital's stretcher coordinator, also are on the front lines of the coronavirus battle.

"(You have) experiences here in the hospital like seeing each person who dies, the situation of family members who" can only wait outside for updates on their loved one's condition, Aguirre said.

An economic reactivation plan kicked off this week in Mexico even though the country, which has reported 97,326 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10,637 covid-19-related deaths, is still in a critical phase of its response to the pandemic.

Hospital staff account for more than one in five of all confirmed cases, according to the latest report from the Health Secretariat, while 23 percent of the health workers infected with the novel coronavirus are not doctors, nurses or lab technicians.

Mexico's government says that 271 medical personnel have died of covid-19 and that Mexico City accounts for the largest share of that total (80), followed by neighboring Mexico state with around 30 deaths.

Elsa Juana Diaz, a dietitian who is tasked with preparing between 120 and 150 saline-solution bags for intravenous delivery to coronavirus patients, said the situation is one that she "never imagined."

"I wasn't accustomed to seeing so many people dying, and that's been a bit tough for me. And also knowing that colleagues of mine and their family members also have died. That for me has been the most difficult thing," Diaz said in a ward set aside for covid-19 patients.

With a hospital occupancy rate of 80 percent and only 34 percent of intensive care beds available, the Mexican capital is clearly the national focal point of the potentially fatal respiratory disease.

That saturation has been taking its toll on workers like Victor Hugo Rosas, who each day helps to gather up all hospital garments from Hospital Juarez's covid-19 ward for disinfection.

"We have to collect a large amount of clothing. We're washing an average of a ton and a half on the morning shift, an average of 1,500 to 2,000 surgical scrubs every day," he said.

The experience of Margarita Martinez, head of the hospital's kitchen staff, has been similar. She said she now prepares 600 special meals per day for doctors and nurses who need energy and hydration after spending long shifts without food or water while attending to covid-19 patients.

She also has to overcome any fears of infection she may have and also coordinate the preparation of 60 daily meals for those coronavirus patients.

"It's been difficult, with a certain amount of fear, because we're all afraid. But at the end of the day, if we use the appropriate measures, I don't think anything will happen," she said.

Like those working in the laundry and kitchen areas of the hospitals, Maria de los Angeles maintains a low profile while repairing ventilators, defibrillators and oxygen cylinders.

The technician and her colleagues are struggling to handle the heavier work load and agree that the toughest aspect of their job is repairing equipment in an area with patients seriously ill with the coronavirus.

"In our work, we have a close connection to illnesses and see the patients. But them coming en masse, with all of them needing medical equipment and medical treatment, that whole change has been something very strong," she said.

The heightened tension is apparent at the entrance to the hospital, where security guard Julio Bugarini protects the lives and safety of health professionals and patients, a vital job in a country where there were 53 aggressions against medical personnel between March 23 and May 20, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Bugarini said he performs his work "with pride" and is not afraid for his own safety, but he added that he is concerned about the danger of infecting his children and grandchildren with the coronavirus.

"Very risky. From my vantage point, it's getting worse every day," he said.

Other staff members such as the hospital's cleaning coordinator, David Hernandez, who has not seen his children in two months, have opted to isolate themselves from their family members.

"There are no longer any routines. The need for the service is what really determines the routine, based on the circumstances that day," he said.

But despite the crisis, these invisible heroes say it brings them satisfaction to help their country through this trying time in its history.

"Each person has to do his part, and coming to work each day is a way of helping out in this situation," Aguirre, the stretcher coordinator, said.

(María José Pardo)