MADRID — As the coronavirus death toll rapidly climbs in Spain to make it a grim new hotspot of the global pandemic, healthcare workers like Alfonso Molina Moreno are struggling without proper gear and worried about their patients as well as themselves. Spain’s health ministry says health workers currently make up about 14 percent of country’s positive COVID-19 cases.
When the outbreak started hitting Madrid, Moreno figured the small palliative-care hospital he works in would be safer than others because no new patients were being admitted. But then an elderly patient with cervical cancer died, and a postmortem X-ray showed her lungs had advanced, bilateral pneumonia.
“It could have been coronavirus, right? She wasn’t tested,” he said. “We don’t know whether we, the staff, brought it here. We don’t know whether it was due to the patients’ visitors. We don’t know the source.”
Staffers now take exhaustive precautions when working with patients who have tested positive—putting on protective equipment they dispose of in contaminated rooms and washing their hands on both sides of the door.
When we spoke, Morena hadn’t been tested. He may be able to soon, though: Spain has ordered 640,000 test kits from China and Korea in an effort to screen health workers and the most vulnerable, to help identify people who need to self-isolate.
Morena isn’t just thinking of the patients he’s now caring for. He’s worried about infecting his loved ones. “I told this to my colleagues, and we have this kind of sharing moment. We’re all going through this bad phase, this suffering.” But he isn’t thinking about quitting. “I really find myself fortunate to be able to work because I have the chance to go and feel useful,” he says. He’s even volunteered to take on more shifts. “The healthcare providers, at this moment, we have to be there no matter what. Because if it is not us, who will it be then? There is no one else.”