Surging COVID infections stretch Portugal hospitals to the limit
CASCAIS (PORTUGAL) – Joao Cordeiro has won the battle with COVID-19 and is about to go home. His children too have recovered quickly. But the family’s fight against the pandemic is far from over as his wife remains at the Cascais Hospital outside Lisbon, fighting for her life in the emergency unit – a few floors below the room where Cordeiro was treated.
“She is down there with pneumonia and everything,” said the 48-year-old, who is relieved to be discharged after weeks in hospital. But he is distraught at the proposal of leaving her behind.
“I’m afraid … I want her to get better.”
The Cordeiros count among the 250,000 people who got infected in Portugal this month and the nation has the world’s highest seven-day average of daily infections and fatalities per million.
PM Antonio Costa said on Wednesday that the epidemic has entered a terrible phase and the spurt in the number of cases has left hospitals on the verge of collapse.
Some hospitals are running out of beds while others are witnessing dwindling oxygen supplies. Doctors and nurses are also overstretched. Military medics have been flown in from Germany to provide help.
Like in most parts of the country, staff at Cascais Hospital are exhausted and they are struggling to remain motivated. “There is no end in sight,” said a nurse after removing her personal protective equipment (PPE).
The hospital’s clinical chief Nuno Côrte-Real said, “The psychological well-being is the big challenge now because everyone can handle an adverse situation if they know it will end. Not knowing when this will end is very stressful.”
The hospital has 16 intensive care beds for COVID patients and they are all full. A vacant spot is soon filled.
“We hope we are approaching the peak of this wave,” Côrte-Real said. “But we are very close to the hospital’s capacity limit.”
As many as 830 ICU beds have been allocated to COVID-19 patients out of a total of 1,200 in the country. At present, 783 COVID-19 patients are in ICUs.
“We can handle it for a few weeks but if it takes too long (for the situation to improve) we won’t be able to,” Côrte-Real said.