It is now Friday, March 20th, the 5th day of quarantine and the cases of COVD-19 have continued to increase.
Being kept in our homes was supposed to contain the virus and supposed to help reduce the number of cases. As of Friday, March 20th, there are 17,716 cases.
As you can see from the photos this number continues to rise.
So why are the numbers rising?
I know a lot of doctors who work in the hospitals and they have helped to spread some light on the situation which seems to fall into two main categories.
1. Not enough medical supplies
2. Not enough staff
Not enough medical supplies
o The doctors do not have the equipment that you see or have seen in China to deal with the outbreak. The doctors in the hospitals in Spain have one mask that they have to wear all day, sometimes all week.
o There are not enough protective goggles for the doctors to wear, there may be just 6 or 7 for the whole A and E department. After each patient you need to clean them.
o There are no white overcoats covering them from head to toe (including the hood). Instead they have a plastic apron. And in some hospitals, there are not enough plastic aprons, some people are actually making aprons from bin liners. – There has been a video shared on Facebook about this.
o There are no clear plastic face shields (that cover the whole head) so people are actually making their own face shields from plastic folders.
o There are not enough ventilators, machines to help people breathe. Apparently in Italy and now in Madrid they have to choose which person gets this ventilator, if it is between an old and a young person, they choose the young person.
The situation of the protective clothes is not just for the doctors but to all those who work in the hospital including the cleaners.
Not enough staff
Spain is one of the poorest paid countries in all of Europe for doctors. This led to many doctors emigrating during the crisis. Unfortunately I cannot find the stats to see exactly the number of doctors working in Spain who are non Spanish born or non Spanish citizens and what percentage this makes up of the Spanish born doctors. The fact still remains that there are not enough doctors. This article from 2018 said Europe will have a shortage of 230,000 doctors by 2020.
Perhaps one of the reasons there are not enough doctors is because of the training that is involved. Doctors study at medical school for between 6 and 7 years. However, they still need to do extra training to become a fully qualified doctor such as a GP, podiatrist or optometrist. This is called residency or post graduate training and can last between 3 and 5 years. These doctors get vital hands-on medical training under the supervision of a qualified a doctor.
I would have therefore thought that any doctors in training or any doctors working may be further encouraged to stay on and work at their current hospital. This does not seem to be the case in some. The doctor residents complete their official training in May this year (in 2 months). They are working many hours during this pandemic and have been told that they still have to wait until May to be fully qualified, something I thought would have been scrapped. They will not get their graduation but yet have to wait for these 2 months.
Salary changes considerably from when a resident becomes a fully qualified physician. Currently residents are paid around 1200 Euros a month net in the last year of their speciality (it is less the year before). This would increase to around 2000 Euros per month once they are fully qualified so in May. However, the government has delayed their pay increase until July. I cannot comprehend why pay the people who are on the front line the least and delay their pay increase when many are working 24 hours in poor conditions without protection.
What the government should be doing:
1. Provide enough test results so that they can test if a patient is positive. Currently the procedure is they test a patient only if they are in serious condition and if not they let the patient go back home. This means if the patient ends up having the virus, they then spread it to their families.
2. Organise manufacturing of face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, ventilating machines so that there will be enough for hospital staff and the general public.
3. Work with all the major hotels to use these unused rooms for patients and those who may be infected but are waiting for their test results. Yesterday Madrid only just announced they will take over one hotel to use for medical reasons and this morning one more.
These insights within the hospitals are being shared on Facebook but not everyone can see them. We should be aware of the truth. Medical staff are risking their lives (and those of their families) by doing their job with poor equipment, something no one should have to do.
What should we the public do? Stay at home and limit the number of times you go out or are in contact with others. Keep doing your own exercises and eat healthy, it is important to stay fit. This is the best protection against the virus. If you do smoke, really it is time to quit. In the UK schools close today but there are still people going out to restaurants and pubs and bars. Get what you need and then stay at home.
Bill Gates was right when he said back in 2015 that we are not ready for the next outbreak. I wonder which governments watched, listened and acted upon it or which governments had thought about it before.