Argentine science park now being used to quarantine Covid-19 patients

By Aitor Pereira

Buenos Aires, Aug 28 (efe-epa).- Argentina’s Tecnopolis Park was founded in Greater Buenos Aires in 2011 as a science, technology, industry and art mega exhibition, but after months of tireless work it has been transformed into a giant quarantine center for non-severe Covid-19 patients.

The different centers that make up the complex, which for years has served as a venue for concerts and other events, including the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics, now are equipped with beds, dining areas and leisure facilities for the purpose of housing up to 2,000 patients.

The 52-hectare (128-acre) complex, which is intended for use by people who lack adequate space to self-isolate because they do not have a bathroom or bedroom for their exclusive use, are provided with medical care by a multi-disciplinary team that includes Red Cross volunteers.

“This is basically for patients with mild symptoms between 18 and 50 years old who receive comprehensive care, both medical and social. Sometimes these are people with some economic problems, some family problems, and the care in this sense is comprehensive. There are doctors here, there are nurses, there’s a social worker, there’s a psychologist,” the Argentine Red Cross’s emergency and disaster services secretary, Daniel Russo, told Efe.

The goal is for the patient “to be able to calmly recuperate and not be anguished because he or she doesn’t know what’s happening at home,” he said, adding that to that end there is an effort to monitor the individuals’ conditions and that of their family.

The provincial government also pays a small stipend of 500 pesos ($6.50) per day to people who voluntarily agree to be housed in official, non-hospital facilities.

After a length of stay that averages 10 days, patients undergo a coronavirus swab test and typically return home if it is negative. But if their condition worsens, they are generally hospitalized.

Tecnopolis offers a range of leisure, entertainment and educational options for the patients, including a library, a viewing room for watching movies and television, games such as table tennis and foosball and a first-aid course

Many of the more than 300 individuals who have been housed at the quarantine center since it opened a month and a half ago (there are currently 60 patients) have quickly experienced an improvement in their medical condition.

One such case has been Mariana Gualco, a resident of San Fernando, Buenos Aires province, who contracted the disease at a convent where she works.

“My prognosis was quite bad. I came in with a real brassy cough, a lot of anguish. I imagined being with a big crowd of people … And the fact is it was just the opposite,” she told Efe.

Gualco talks regularly with her two adult children aged 21 and 26 (patients are allowed to use their cellphone as much as they wish) as part of a daily routine filled with different activities.

“I wake up very early. I wait for the (caregivers) to come. They check up on me. I have a shower, eat breakfast … We’ve had courses by the Red Cross (on) first aid and CPR. We watch movies, we walk, we take fresh air, we interact with the girls, we rest, we read,” the woman said.

Another patient also said the treatment she has received at Tecnopolis has put her at ease, noting that she had been anguished over symptoms that included sharp pain and spikes in blood pressure.

“I have four children. As soon as I found out my test was positive I isolated myself in my room. I didn’t have contact with the rest of the family (and) was there for four days. Then I came here. It was my decision to isolate myself here because they are severe asthmatics. They’re at-risk patients,” Pamela Rodriguez said.

Red Cross volunteers from across Argentina provide care at the center (30 work there every day) and must comply with strict safety protocols to protect themselves and avoid spreading the virus.

Those measures have been successful thus far, with no reports to date of any volunteers having contracted the coronavirus.

“Being able to help, being able to be here in this socio-sanitary emergency is a volunteer’s dream, making our very small contribution,” Fiona Portaro, a Red Cross volunteer, told Efe.

As part of the safety protocol, the center is divided into three areas – green, yellow and red – based on the potential danger of infection.

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