Mendoza’s Central Hospital is sighing in relief over the recent descent in Covid-19 cases, but its staff are not placing their faith in fortune, preparing as much as possible for the possible second wave which is already hitting Europe.
"It’s been many months of hard, exhausting work and only now do we have the sensation of the peak dipping a bit. All the intensive therapy beds are occupied but against what we’re seeing elsewhere in the world, that rates as a pause," Dr Hugo Vitale, the hospital’s intensive therapy coordinator, told AFP.
About 90 percent of Argentina’s coronavirus cases (now topping 1.25 million with over 34,000 dead) were initially concentrated in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) area, but then the virus spread inland where hospital infrastructure is weaker than in the nation’s capital.
"The hospital has beefed up the number of beds and artificial respirators but as happens around the world, intensive therapy lacks specialists, both doctors and nurses,", explained Vitale, while pointing out that other specialists like surgeons, urologists, anaesthetists or emergency doctors have supported them in their toughest moments.
Mendoza, an Andean province with 1.8 million inhabitants, went from a total 308 Covid-19 cases in mid-July to 47,073 by the end of October.
Ivana Bunarrico, a nurse at the emergency clinic for respiratory diseases at Mendoza Central Hospital, was one of those infected and although her illness turned out to be asymptomatic, she said that she was "very scared."
"I’ve had colleagues hospitalised. [To think that] they could die leaving their families abandoned is very distressing," she said, her voice breaking.
Over 900 people have died of Covid-19 in the province but the curve has now flattened out at a daily average of 500 new cases. Sanitary restrictions were relaxed at the start of this week.
"The number of cases is down. It’s a time we use to organise, recap what we’ve been doing and step up what’s been working for us. And also a time to shift into a lower gear and rest a bit," said María Ángeles Conti, the hospital’s chief auditor.
At the most critical stage the hospital’s intensive therapy zone was fully occupied.
"Those were very extenuating days," affirmed Conti, pointing out that they have paid special attention to the mental health of hospital staff.
"The sick entering into intensive therapy have a very high rate of mortality. The staff attending them lives with death on a daily basis," she explained.
In an inside patio of the hospital, a group of specialists is available around the clock to help contain staff anxieties.
"It’s all about boosting the capacity of the team, giving them a space for recreation so that they can release their emotions and always be ready to attend," pointed out Conti.