By Alida Juliani
Soria, Spain, Mar 21 (EFE).- It was 2 am when the phone rang in Lucia’s house: a patient she was caring for had tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Instantly, the protocol issued by the department of preventive medicine was activated and Lucia was forced to self-quarantine.
In Spain, the National Health System has 147,000 doctors and 182,000 nursing professionals, but since the crisis struck, around 40,000 retired health workers, researchers and trainee nurses and doctors have also been deployed.
According to the latest data, 600 of them are quarantined by the coronavirus and a 52 year old nurse who worked at the Galdakao University Hospital in Bizkaia (Basque Country, north) has died.
Lucia is a nurse at the intensive care unit of the only state hospital in the northern Spanish province of Soria, one of the least populated areas in Europe.
After the phone call, she was forced to remain in an isolated room of her house, separated from her family until tests show if she has been infected by one of her patients who tested positive.
At least 52 of Lucia’s colleagues have also been put into a 15-day quarantine.
“The quarantine is bearable, the point is how you take it,” said the 44-year-old nurse and mother of two.
She has kept in contact with her children and husband through video calls despite living in the same home.
The unexpected quarantine of Lucia and her colleagues began after they came into contact with a coronavirus suspect who had tested negative in the first probe but the results returned positive in a second test.
“Until the negative (test) we had worked with the personal protective equipment which we had in the unit. Colleagues dressed in the suits and followed the necessary procedure to accommodate him both physically and medically in the room,” Lucia told Efe from her room via video-conferencing.
However, when the first test returned negative for coronavirus, staff stopped using the protective gear.
“It shifted to basic protocol: masks, gloves and occasionally disposable gowns.”
Lucia and the other nurses followed a normal daily routine and went out in public until the results of the second test – carried out by a Madrid lab – arrived.
“One worries especially for the family, as you may have infected your husband or children. Maybe someone else,” Lucia said.
As part of her new daily routine, she checks her body temperature twice a day, eats with plastic cutlery and each time she goes to the bathroom she wears a face mask and gloves, uses her personal towel and disinfects every surface in the room with bleach.
Unless she tests positive or develops symptoms, the nurse plans to immediately return to work at the hospital after the quarantine, aware that her colleagues have been doubling their shifts to take care of patients.
The World Health Organziation gave new recommendations this week to people who have recovered from Covid-19, to continue in isolation for two weeks after they have recovered as it seems people continue to be infectious for a period.
“If I finally test negative and have to return to work, I am not afraid. Around 99.9 percent of the health professions are working vocationally, so there is no fear. There is respect, but we have to be there for the rest of the population. We put in all our efforts into helping people,” she said at a time when the workload is overwhelming her colleagues.