The worst of COVID is yet to come

From time to time music plays in the emergency room of the Hospital Ajusco Medio, in the south of Mexico City. Dr. Marta Patricia Mancilla, head of the service, is convinced that this helps to lift the spirits of the staff, helps them forget bad times and avoid thinking about what is coming.

Eight months after becoming one of the public hospitals dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19 in the Mexican capital, “the worst is yet to come,” said Mancilla. “And, unfortunately, we are going to get very tired.”

Mexico City – which accounts for almost 20 percent of COVID-19 cases in the entire country, with more than 219,000 infected and at least 13,800 deaths – is going through an outbreak that has set off alarms. The head of government, Claudia Sheinbaum, has not ruled out new restrictions but, so far, she has only multiplied the number of tests and the screening of positives and is expected to announce more beds for hospitals.

The problem of the city of 10 million inhabitants and many others distributed in its suburbs is that the streets are increasingly crowded. And hospitals too. On a blackboard in his office, Dr. Alejandro Ávalos, director of the Ajusco Medio, updates the occupancy level in real time: total 122 percent, ICU (Intensive Care Units) 116 percent, emergency 100 percent, it was read on Wednesday .

“As of May, we have not dropped 100 percent,” said the surgeon with 35 years of experience who has opted to provide early, specialized care with a young and motivated team.

In the spring they were overwhelmed when people began to accumulate in the corridors and could not allow the relatives of a deceased to enter to identify him for fear of contagion. Then “our way of thinking changed,” Ávalos explained. “We have learned to cry with people, to suffer with people, to understand people more.”

The main bet of the Ajusco Medio is the early care through tents outside the building where the first evaluations and studies are made to start treatment as soon as possible and that patients can follow it at home and be admitted only if their situation becomes complicated.

In May they cared for about 90 people a day. By Wednesday until early afternoon, 143 had already passed. The results in this hospital managed by the city’s Health Secretariat and totally free are promising. According to its director, mortality fell from 68 in April to 8 percent in November. But not all health centers have the same luck.

In La Raza in the north of the capital, also public but operated by the federal government, a group of doctors and nurses signed a complaint last week in which they threatened to stop treating patients with COVID-19 if the authorities The health authorities did not decree the “red traffic light”, the maximum alert level that paralyzes all non-essential activities.

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