The high prevalence of influenza and coronavirus viruses has already led to the “collapse” of emergency rooms in some Catalan hospitals. They are all experiencing very high care pressure, more than in other years on the same dates, due to influenza and coronavirus infections, as well as other respiratory infections. Centers like Terrassa Hospital are already talking about “collapse”. This hospital recently opened up to 10 beds that were closed, as well as a multi-purpose area with an additional 14 beds to respond to the increase in the number of patients. However, yesterday morning, there were as many as 38 patients in the emergency department waiting to be admitted and waiting for a bed.
“Patient safety is not guaranteed at the moment,” warns News Muñoz, an internist in the emergency department at Terrassa Hospital. Patients, most of whom have flu and Covid, are being treated in corridors and cannot be isolated. The milder ones are referred to primary care because it is not possible to care for everyone. “We are understaffed and overwhelmed,” Muñoz says. The situation may worsen, as communities such as Madrid expect the flu to reach its peak after Reyes, Health Minister Fatima Matuti said yesterday.
According to Muñoz, at Terrassa Hospital, patients of low complexity are referred to health centers so that they can take care of patients of moderate complexity. On Saturday, there were up to eight ambulances at the hospital entrance and they were unable to “offload” patients due to space constraints, and had to wait up to eight hours, like the rest of the patients in the emergency department.
“Déjà vu” of the pandemic
These numbers improved yesterday with the opening of new beds, but they are not enough. “We keep collapsing,” the internist insists. “This is Covid before.”
On December 27, the Ministry of Health issued a statement calling for calm and ensuring “normal” hospital activity despite the rise in cases of respiratory viruses. Doctors from some hospitals in Barcelona had previously warned El Periodico newspaper of “unprecedented activity these days,” although they did not mention the word “collapse.” In Barcelona pharmacies, especially since December 20, sales of antigen tests (especially those that detect influenza A, influenza B and Covid-19) and influenza tests have risen significantly. And not only that: but also masks, which were previously thought to have been banished.
Terrassa Hospital is a reference point for about 220,000 people in Occidental Valles. Among the other hospitals experiencing the greatest amount of pressure on healthcare is Parc Taulí de Sabadell.
Muñoz emphasizes that this is “the first time” that the hospital has referred (mild) patients to CAP when it is impossible to treat them in the hospital. This internist also says there are people with the flu or COVID having “bronchospasm” in the emergency room hallways. “We cannot isolate them,” he warns. There are also patients who have influenza and Covid at the same time. “We cannot assume these staff ratios with such a large number of patients,” laments this doctor.