Jorge Alió MD, PhD, FEBO
In an interview with EuroTimes, Prof Jorge Alió MD, PhD, FEBO, Vissum Miranza, Miguel Hernandez University, Alicante, Spain, described the situation from the ground and its impact on ophthalmic care and on healthcare professionals in general.
“We are in the peak of this epidemic at the moment and ophthalmologists here are playing their role in terms in support the healthcare system university and public hospitals. About 50% some times or more of the staff in the hospitals are involved in the general practitioner services.
Regarding ophthalmology itself, all routine and elective surgery and outpatient visits and procedures are cancelled. We are now only treating emergency cases. We are cancelling procedures that will have no impact on the outcome if delayed for a few weeks.
The main problem we are faced with is how to treat so many people so quickly and how to protect the healthcare workers from becoming infected. Around 7% of Spain’s population are, or have been, affected by the viral infection to the degree that they need to go to the hospital. Spain’s healthcare system is very good but it is unable to receive so many people so quickly all with the same disease. They need oxygen, they need masks, some of them to be intubated and then they need ICUs, and no country is prepared for this problem.
Adding to that is the toll the disease is taking on healthcare workers. About 15-to-20% of specialists in my area have already been infected. And the rates of infection have been similar among other healthcare personnel. That is concerning because we need these people for our healthcare system to be effective.
The virus is so contagious that for effective protection you need a full body suit covering you from head to toe and a mask though which you may exhale but you cannot intake particles. No country has provided this type of equipment because no country has ever though that they would need it. This level of protection is now being provided for intensive care units but it has not been available for most of the healthcare professionals in care of effected people.
Time will tell whether other countries where the pandemic is just now taking hold will follow a similar pattern. When we were observing the tragedy unfolding in Italy we did not expect it to be that bad in Spain but in the end we followed the same epidemiology as bad if not worse.
In conversation with Roibeard Ó hÉineacháin
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