Perfil (Sabado)

Doctors and nurses struggle on as Argentina nears 100,000 fatalities

Argentina has recorded more than 4.6 million infections and 98,000 deaths from Covid-19. Doctors and nurses are fighting relentless­ly to save lives, but inside the frenzied corridors of the nation’s hospitals, staff say they’re exhausted.


Doctors and nurses are fighting relentless­ly, but they’re on the verge of exhaustion at the San Roque hospital in Córdoba, central Argentina. More than 15 months on since the arrival of Covid-19 in Argentina, the country now stands on the threshold of 100,000 deaths.

“These months have been very hard, both on a profession­al and personal level,” admits Doctor Gabriela Nis, the hospital’s exhausted director.

Argentina, a country of 45 million inhabitant­s, has recorded more than 4.6 million infections and 98,000 deaths from coronaviru­s. Although the number of new cases has been decreasing in recent weeks, fatalities remain at close to 500 a day.

“We are going through this second wave with a slight decrease in cases, but daily we continue to incorporat­e patients with a moderate to severe condition,” Nis explains.


In the corridors of the hospital, nurses bustle between tubes and syringes. Behind the white doors of the intensive care unit, critically ill patients struggle for their lives with every breath.

“The entire health team remains very committed to the situation [we face], but the days are exhausting and the circumstan­ces are difficult,” admits the doctor.

Argentina’s vaccinatio­n programme has accelerate­d in recent weeks. More than 18 million people have received a shot and another 4.5 million have completed their programme against Covid-19.

Restrictio­ns on the movement of people remain in place and preventati­ve and social distancing measures remain in place, and the quiet rhythm in the street contrasts with the frenzied atmosphere inside the hospital.

“Day to day, life in the hospital is complex and intense,” says the director. “The number of patients in critical units is unparallel­ed compared to before. We have never had so many hospitalis­ed in intensive care with respirator­s.”

While some jurisdicti­ons, such as Buenos Aires City, have reopened bars, cinemas and theatres, healthcare profession­als in Argentina’s hospitals continue to be pushed to the limit.

“We tell society to continue taking care, this is not over,” warns Nis.


Marcelo Oliva, the hospital’s deputy director, says that the pandemic has put healthcare personnel through “an experience that surpassed any previous training.”

“The pandemic has pushed us to physical and psychologi­cal exhaustion, it has brought sadness to colleagues,” he says. “Seeing the aggressive­ness that this pandemic has on the population is very sad.”

Carlos Canovas, Córdoba’s health undersecre­tary says “the province has about 1,700 patients hospitalis­ed with Covid,” but he warns it could worsen.

Canovas says that the health system has been strengthen­ed, with the capacity of its critical care units quadrupled.

However, the official said the true Achilles heel is the physical and emotional exhaustion of healthcare personnel. This, added to concerns over the entry of the virus’ more contagious Delta strain, remains a serious problem.

“We are convinced that with the circulatio­n of the new strain and a greater circulatio­n of people, we will surely have a third peak of hospitalis­ation” in Argentina, he warned.

“We are prepared for that peak, the problem is the health personnel who are exhausted,” he remarked.

“If people do not accompany us and we do not have the support of society regarding the measures, the ICU beds will not be sufficient,” the official warned.


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