More than 64,000 people have tested positive, there are over 4,000 in ICU and over 4,800 have died. Those were the numbers of COVID-19 in Spain as of February 27. Numbers that will tragically continue to grow. Madrid is one of the regions mostly affected in the country by the epidemic. More than half of the diseased nationwide are from this area. To this, there is a growing number of healthcare professionals infected and under quarantine. With over 10,000 workers affected, hospitals have experienced an important shortage in the times of crisis. To this end and following a call from the health department of the Junta de Andalucía, SAMU is working to provide support to the province of Malaga as well as in mobilizing special units to the Comunidad de Madrid.
SAMU has mobilized three intensive surveillance units, a high capacity vehicle and four units of volunteers with over twenty medical professionals to support operations in Madrid in order to safely move a group of senior citizens that have tested positive to COVID-19 to treatment centers throughout the area. This is a highly demanding job, both physically and emotionally because it forces medical teams to work with protective gear which distances them from patients and are extremely uncomfortable. To add to the arduous routine, the personnel has to follow strict guidelines to disinfect and change after each shift. “Taking care of you to be able to take care of others” is as Juan Gonzales de Escalada, SAMU’s Chief of Operations describes it.
At the same time, SAMU is working on the transfer of 28 COVID patients from a senior residence in Alacala del Valle in the province of Cadiz. This mission, authorized by the Junta de Andalucia, has been set in motion as a virus outbreak had been identified in the residence, affecting both residents and their supportive personnel. Originally, a group of six health professionals from SAMU were mobilized to the residence. The team was composed of one doctor, one nurse, two emergency technicians and two nurse assistants. The team was led by Andres Rodrigues, a nurse, who conducted a survey of the situation, analyzed the conditions of the elderly and recommended their transfer to a temporary hospital that SAMU had set in the Residencia El Burgo, located in La Linea de la Concepcion. After this, the medical team proceeded to a full disinfecting cleanup of the residency.
For the transfer of the patients, SAMU provided one bus, six ambulances and two special support ambulances. The transfer counted with a caravan from the national police. During this time, a team of other five professionals were setting up the temporary hospital in La Linea. A day after the transfer, a large number of agents from security and health services from the state sounded sirens in honor of the elderly at the doors of the temporary hospital. Sirens and applauses were followed by SAMU’s team, who showed their solidarity and gratefulness with applauses from inside the premises. Neighbors from the municipality held a large sign that read “You are also our grandparents”.
Today, 24 SAMU professionals are caring for a total of 28 patients. The security measures are high and all personnel count with the proper PPE.
“This is a hard and pure humanitarian action, as says our boss Carlos Alvarez Leiva, it’s a textbook crisis” Says Andres Rodrigues, supervisor of the temporary hospital in La Linea. “I am very surprised. I have been to many humanitarian missions in places like Siria and Libia, but I never imagined to be living such a situation in this part of Europe”.
On another front, SAMU continues to provide services in Malaga, where it moves between three to four patients on a daily basis. In addition, the Empresa Publica de Emergencias Sanitarias has requested that SAMU presents a contingency plan of up to 150 workers ready to support all stages of the crisis. Fortunately SAMU’s personnel has received training on the use of PPE and are used to working in high risk areas including working under areas of viral infections. According to Gonzalez de Escalada “its about taking the most extreme precautions”.
At the closing of SAMU’s march magazine edition, we are still in action helping in all fronts of the crisis with a plan of action and a series of projects to support the local authorities such as the set up of homeless shelters in Madrid and Seville, and the opening of a temporary hospital in the hotel Aljarafe in Seville, aimed at treatment of the elder population. SAMU’s General Director, Carlos Gonzales de Escalada has put his entire organization and resources to the disposal of local authorities and the society in general to contribute to its maximum capacity in the solution of the current health crisis.