There has been a notable increase in the number of cases among health workers.

23-08-2020Miquel À. Cañellas

Some 4,000 tests for coronavirus are being carried out in the Balearics on a daily basis. The amount of testing does go some way in explaining the rise in the infection rate, and as the health authorities keep stating, the overwhelming majority of cases are mild or asymptomatic.

The situation, as the authorities also regularly insist, is not comparable to what it was when the Balearics were recording the worst figures at the start of April. Although the figures for the number of patients being admitted to hospital are way off what they were at their height - over 600 in hospital, with roughly 120 patients in intensive care - they have been rising.

Compared with around a month ago, admissions have increased by almost ten times. On 20 July, there were 20 people in hospital, fifteen of them in Majorca, with three patients in intensive care. The figures released on Friday indicated that there were 191 patients in hospitals in the Balearics - 173 of these in Majorca - with 23 patients in intensive care (22 in Majorca, one in Minorca).

A caveat with the admissions' figure is that there are people in hospital for social reasons. In other words, these are patients whose condition should not require hospitalisation but whose domestic circumstances do not allow them to isolate adequately at home. As of Friday, there were 25 such cases, roughly one-eighth of the total of hospital admissions, therefore.

Nevertheless, the trend in admissions is of concern, and allied to this are the numbers of health personnel being infected. The regional health ministry's report on Friday stated that there were 139 positive cases among health workers and that, as a precautionary measure, another 420 were isolating at home and under observation.

In early April, a peak in the number of health personnel infections was reached - 196 cases. At that time, there were a further 414 being monitored at home. The number of infections is clearly lower than in April, but there has also been an upward trend for this. A month ago, there were twelve active cases among health workers (all in Majorca), with 39 under observation.

In considering the renewed strains being placed on the health service, the Simebal doctors' union in the Balearics also points to health worker fatigue. The union views as positive the recruitment of some 900 more health workers since May, but argues that these are not enough. The president of Simebal, Miguel Lázaro, believes that, for example, at least 250 tracers and the same number of doctors are needed. He suggests that primary care is bearing the brunt of a personnel shortage, with doctors working longer hours than they should be and without added remuneration.

Lázaro argues that the government's talk of the health service being placed under stress hides the real story. "There is a haemorrhage which doesn't stop bleeding."

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