14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2020 — The Joaquín Albarrán Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital, popularly known as “Clinic 26,” is preparing to become a center dedicated to coronavirus sufferers in Havana as a priority, as several employees have confirmed to 14ymedio.
Although the authorities insist that there are still no cases of Covid-19 on the Island, the official press indicates that “the institutions that will be prepared for the timely isolation of suspicious or positive cases have been designated, with more than 2,400 beds across the country.” The headquarters will be at the Pedro Kourí Institute (IPK), where 160 beds have been enabled for these purposes, “of which 20 are especially for pregnant women and children.”
According to testimonies collected by 14ymedio from the staff, Clinic 26 will be the first host center and from there, cases that are more complicated and serious will be sent to the IPK, especially the elderly and chronically ill, as well as pregnant women.
“They have given us special training and measures are being taken so that the entire hospital functions as the main reception center for patients with coronavirus,” explains one of the clinic’s doctors, who has been in the team for more than a week to assess how she is going to operate the Emergency Room and the admission rooms once the first confirmed cases begin to arrive.
“We have several problems to solve but we are working on that,” explains the health professional. “One of the most complicated is that of the building’s five elevators, only one is working; we use that one elevator to move patients, corpses and surgical waste,” she laments. “If we start receiving patients with coronavirus that situation cannot continue.”
The Clinic on 26th Street has been the main center of attention for dengue patients in Havana, although the volume of infected people led to the use of hospital rooms throughout the city. “There were days last year when we received up to 25 people a day with suspicion of dengue and now the numbers have gone down, but they keep coming. We are at an average of 50 per month.”
“But one thing is the attention to patients with dengue fever, a disease that is transmitted with the bite of a mosquito, and another attention to a coronavirus that is spread by contact and drops of saliva. The level of isolation and hygiene that we have to achieve must be very high,” explains the doctor. “The risk is multiplied for all medical personnel who will have to undergo very strict protocols and measures.”
A nurse from the same hospital confirms the fear that is spreading among workers. “We have problems with the water supply, in many admitting rooms the bathrooms work poorly and we are facing a disease that requires constant washing of hands and maintaining the cleanliness of the body and spaces,” she explains.
“They say that when the first infected people arrive we will already have gloves to constantly change them ourselves and also more clothes and masks, but right now all that material has not yet arrived,” she laments. “Every day they give me between two and three pairs of gloves to wear and I have to wash them to take care of all the patients that come to me.”
“We will work in coordination with the police as well, because the patients who arrive will be under the obligation of not leaving this center,” says the nurse. “Criminal punishments can be applied if they do not comply with mandatory isolation.”
The Cuban health authorities insist that no case of Covid-19 has been detected on the Island and the official press announces that a training process for health professionals in the country is being carried out to address the coronavirus.
The official press has spent several days offering special information about the virus and how the Island is prepared for its arrival and this Monday at 6 pm President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, and the Minister of Health Public, José Ángel Portal Miranda will be on the Roundtable television program, which is reporting the seriousness of the situation.
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.