Fiji Sun - - NATION -

Chilean doc­tor Se­bas­tian Ugarte, 61, has worked in the med­i­cal field for 27 years. Now he has be­come a fa­mil­iar face to Chileans, as he makes rounds of news shows to dis­cuss the out­break of COVID-19 and ways to com­bat it.

His re­al­is­tic, but ul­ti­mately hope­ful at­ti­tude to­wards the epi­demic, which has in­fected 184,449 peo­ple and claimed 3383 lives in Chile by Tues­day, has also made him a wel­come pres­ence in the me­dia.

The doc­tor is spread­ing hope amid the bleak land­scape of the pan­demic and its mount­ing count.

“I have to tell the truth, but al­ways tell the truth, no mat­ter how hard it is, with a grain of hope, be­cause in the end we are go­ing to over­come this epi­demic,” said Dr Ugarte, who heads the In­ten­sive Care Unit of the INDISA Clinic in the cap­i­tal city of San­ti­ago.

In ad­di­tion to his pos­i­tive mes­sage, his charis­matic per­son­al­ity and abil­ity to ex­plain com­plex is­sues clearly have won him the af­fec­tion of Chileans, as their posts on so­cial net­works show.

The out­break has im­pacted him, too, prevent­ing him from see­ing his mother and three chil­dren, Dr Ugarte said.

“I don’t go to see them so I don’t in­fect them ... but re­ceiv­ing th­ese mes­sages of af­fec­tion is pos­i­tive,” he said, re­fer­ring to the praise he has re­ceived from grate­ful Chileans.

“It’s com­fort­ing, be­cause the role of doc­tors and health­care work­ers has been to ac­com­pany the sick and even risk their own health,” said Dr Ugarte.

Ev­ery morn­ing, he wakes up at 5am to read the lat­est sci­en­tific and med­i­cal news about the virus be­fore ar­riv­ing at the clinic at 7am. INDISA is cur­rently treat­ing 243 COVID-19 pa­tients. At 10am, he heads to a lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tion to talk about the epi­demic, and re­turns to the clinic at 1pm to con­tinue his med­i­cal rounds.

The de­mand for med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als is so high that “we have in­cor­po­rated even pe­di­atric doc­tors. They are now treat­ing adults,” he said.

“Ev­ery day we see very crit­i­cal pa­tients ... and we do what we can to cure them. Some­times it is very dif­fi­cult, be­cause you can treat a sick per­son for 40 days and af­ter 40 days you see the pa­tient is still not re­cov­er­ing,” said Dr Ugarte.

“I hope that doesn’t hap­pen to me, but no­body is im­mune,” said Dr Ugarte.

Chile’s out­break is grad­u­ally climb­ing to­wards a peak, he be­lieves. Still, he hopes a vac­cine or other ef­fec­tive treat­ment would soon emerge.

Chilean doc­tor Se­bas­tian Ugarte.

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