Madrid (AFP) – Once the dead body is silently pushed onto a stretcher, the cleaning battalion moves to the intensive care unit. Within minutes, the bed in which the 72-year-old woman fought more than two weeks for another breath is cleaned, and the glass walls are disinfected with a mop.
There is very little time to think about what just happened, because death gives way to the possibility of saving another life.
“Obviously our greatest joy is the emptying of the bed, but because someone was discharged from the hospital and not because of his death,” said Ignacio Pujol, head of the intensive care unit in Madrid. “That’s a little space out there for someone else to have another chance.”
As the wave of infections puts the Spanish public health system against the ropes once again, nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital that employs Pujol, a project many see as an extravagant vanity project, gets a new opportunity to prove its usefulness.
Named after a nineteenth-century Spanish nurse who received smallpox vaccination across the Atlantic, the facility was built in 100 days at a cost of 130 million euros ($ 157 million), more than twice the original budget. It houses three wings and support buildings on an area the size of 10 football fields, looking somewhere between a small airport building and an industrial warehouse, with ventilation ducts, medical beds and the latest equipment. The original project was 1,000 beds, nearly half of which have been installed so far.
The Zindal opened to a roar of competing hype and criticism on December 1Just as Spain seemed to reduce the wave of coronavirus infections after the summer. By mid-December, it had received only a small number of patients.
But Spain recorded more than 84,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest increase over a single weekend since the start of the epidemic. The country’s total number is heading to 2.5 million with 53,000 confirmed virus deaths, although the excess death statistics add more than 30,000 deaths to it.
As the contagion curve intensifies after Christmas and New Year, Zendal gets busy. On Monday, 392 patients were treated, more than any other 6.6 million hospital in the region.
The increase in Spain comes after similar increases in infections in other European countries, most notably in the United Kingdom, after the discovery of a new type of virus that experts say is more contagious. London Nightingale, one of the makeshift hospitals across Britain designed to relieve pressure on the country’s overcrowded healthcare system, has also reopened for patients and as a vaccination center.
Spain’s top health officials insist that they have not found evidence that the new variants causing havoc elsewhere are in any way contributing to the increase in infections.. Some experts argue that the claim that the country’s limited ability to sequence coronavirus cases distorts reality and that a novelty to stay at home is essential.
In reality, the increase in hospitalizations due to the virus has already passed its second peak. Nearly one in five hospital beds has a patient with COVID-19. The new disease is also consuming a third of the nation’s ICU capacity and non-urgent surgeries are already being canceled.
Some of the medical experts have been joined by left-wing politicians and trade unions who accuse the conservative Madrid government of spending on vote-attracting devices instead of bolstering a public health system that has been underfunded for years. They say investing in contact tracing and primary care earlier could have avoided the need for Zendal altogether.
Angela Hernandez said: “Instead of the success they boast of, filling this makeshift hospital represents a colossal failure for those at the top of the response to the pandemic, and also a failure for all of us as a community that could have done a better job.” , Spokeswoman for Madrid’s main medical personnel union, AMYTS.
She said that the straw that broke the camel’s back for the unions was the regional government’s dismissal of medical workers who refuse to give up their jobs in regular hospitals when they are transferred to Zindal.
“The project was nonsense from start to finish,” Hernandez said. “A few beds without enough staff don’t make a hospital.”
Zendal’s director, Fernando Brados, says he doesn’t mind the debate, but the 750 patients treated over the past month and a half have already relieved significant stress from other hospitals.
“We have already contributed one way or the other,” said Prados. “We know that we will continue to receive COVID patients and once the pandemic is over, this infrastructure will be here for any other emergency.”
Former automatic glass doors, patients recover in 8-bed units, leaving little room for privacy but providing better monitoring of potential complications in their recovery, said Veronica Real, who was the challenge as the head nurse.
“Some cleaners arrive with a degree of anger because of all the noise around our hospital,” Real said. “But once here, the situation changes completely.”
Zendal managers say the modern ventilation system rejuvenates the entire facility every 5 minutes, which contributes to a safer work environment. But they are more proud of the expansion of the Intermediate Respiratory Care Unit, where patients receive different types of assisted breathing to overcome pneumonia.
The head of the unit, Pedro Landit, says that by accepting potentially worsening patients in one of 50 highly equipped beds, they are reducing the number of people who subsequently need more demanding intensive care.
Jose Andres Armada arrived at the facility with mild symptoms after all of his family members were infected despite what he said was a very careful approach to the pandemic. But the 63-year-old man’s health was rapidly deteriorating, and last week he was about to be tubeed in one of Zendal’s intensive care boxes.
I know the economy is something that needs to be protected, but health is more important. We should be in lockdown now. “You cannot open bars and other places,” said the former businessman.
“I never imagined that he could attack you this way.”
Jill Lawless, the Associated Press correspondent in London contributed to this report.
Follow the AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic And https://apnews.com/coronavirus-vaccine And https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak