The white containers where the emergency room dedicated to the covid-19 of the largest hospital in the country works are installed in front of the Central Emergency and separated from the main building to ensure the safety of the other patients who are going to do their treatments, consultations and surgeries there. The new wing was created recently after the first phase of the pandemic, concentrating the services that were provided until then by the Red Cross tents, the space in the central reception of the hospital and a prefabricated one. What was intended was “to separate suspected and non-suspect patients by creating separate circuits,” says doctor Jacques Santos, deputy director of the Emergency Department.
When asked if the influx of patients with covid-19 or those suspected of being infected has increased, the doctor says that “it has been increasing from day to day”. “We have capacity for 26 patients and, at this moment, the capacity is almost filled in the“ covidário ”, although they are sick waiting for transfer to the services”, he explains.
The movement is visible at the door of urgency. On the day of the Lusa report in Santa Maria, held on Tuesday. There are INEM ambulances parked, health professionals equipped with protective suits and a few dozen people waiting to take the covid-19 test: some are sitting on the pillars that flank the sidewalk, while others prefer to stand up in turn.
Inside, health professionals unfold in the screening area, where they make swabs, and circulate through the various individual boxes, where the most seriously ill patients are, lying on stretchers waiting to be transferred to other services. In this service, there are ventilators, a resuscitation room and all the medicines and machines needed to support the most urgent cases.
“We are hospitalizing many patients in intensive care,” says Jacques Santos, recalling that at the beginning of the second wave there seemed to be less serious patients, because the infected population was younger, but “it was a mistake to believe that”. “In the midst of so many new patients it gives that feeling that the virus is being less aggressive”, but “the severity of the patients is not less”, he observes.
Every day, between 100 and 150 users go through the emergency room, according to the president of the Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte, Daniel Ferro, considering that having a separate emergency room helps, because contact with the institution is avoided “as much as possible”, which monitors the two thirds who resorted to urgency and were sent home, but may still have symptoms.
Despite the long months of the pandemic and the tiredness expressed on the faces of many health professionals, the desire to help remains. “In terms of nursing, we have maintained the same profile since March until today,” Carlos Neto, a nurse manager of the Emergency Services, who has been fighting the pandemic since the first day, told Lusa. For the nurse, the greatest difficulties are “in the pressure of insecurity” that professionals have and “in uncertainty about the future”, due to the “prolongation of this situation”, which is “noticed in the team as a whole”.
“But we don’t let our guard down,” guarantees Carlos Neto, considering that the biggest challenges that professionals have to face is maintaining “safety profiles, avoiding the contingency of material and human resources difficulties and providing the assistance that is necessary” . It is a situation that requires “a lot of effort” and although the professionals are not yet exhausted, all this “is leaving some marks for the temporal extension of the pandemic and certainly for what will come, because it will take a few months”.
For the doctor Jacques Santos, the problem is that the professionals did not have a period when they were “absent from the infection”. Making a comparison with influenza A, the doctor says that there it was known that there was “a long period” of calm (spring, summer and autumn), which did not happen with this virus. Only in confinement, but there was not enough time to recover, and at that time there were many health professionals infected or quarantined and this made it “difficult to fully enjoy the holidays”.