Under pressure, Spanish family doctors battle COVID-19

Under pressure, Spanish family doctors battle COVID-19

Healthcare workers wearing protective gear outside the CAP Prat de la Riba primary care centre
Healthcare workers wearing protective gear walk past a field hospital set up for coronavirus cases outside the CAP Prat de la Riba primary care centre in Lerida (Lleida) on Jul 13, 2020. (Photo: AFP/PAU BARRENA)

MADRID: Spain's family doctors are feeling the strain as they increasingly take the place of emergency and intensive-care colleagues on the front lines of the country's battle against the coronavirus.

"I want to be optimistic ... If there's a second wave we'll get through it but it will be really tough," said Dr Luis Martinez, director of the Silvano Health Centre, a public general health facility on the outskirts of Madrid.

"The staff are all tired, exhausted. It's been an entirely new situation."

Besides dealing with their usual caseload, general practitioners (GPs) have been tasked with screening thousands of patients for coronavirus and in some case tracking their movements and contacts.

While about 99 per cent of the tests Martinez carries out come back negative, new cases in Madrid are on the rise. Since they slowed to a trickle in June the region logged 225 infections on Thursday, a trend repeated elsewhere in Spain.

READ: Spain logs biggest daily rise in COVID-19 cases since lockdown lifted

The health ministry reported 1,229 new infections on Thursday and 13,391 in the past week, though it says the country is not yet experiencing a second wave.

With just 10 deaths in the past seven days, the epidemic has become far less deadly than during its early April peak, when the daily toll approached 1,000.

But doctors, already swamped, fear the situation could deteriorate.

"We're all a bit scared," said Dr Cristina Sanchez, a GP in Murcia who also represents primary care doctors for the CESM medical union. "We simply don't have enough staff."

Acknowledging that primary care doctors were playing a more prominent role than hospitals, Spain's deputy health emergency chief Maria Sierra said last week the sector needed extra support.

However, Sanchez said the government had failed to take concrete measures.

"We're doing double the work with the same resources ... The situation has been extremely stressful. We feel completely abandoned," she told Reuters.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developments

Download our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: Reuters/ga