Health workers, Son Espases Hospital, Mallorca

There are some 5,000 workers in all at Son Espases.

21-11-2020Miquel À. Cañellas

In anticipation of what might happen with the pandemic next month over the holiday periods, the management at Son Espases Hospital has taken on a further 26 nurses and auxiliaries. They are to be added to the 170 health workers recruited since March.

Son Espases has an average of 757 beds and 44 adult intensive care unit beds. In all, there are 97 critical beds - the others are paediatric, neonatal and resuscitation. As of Tuesday, there were fifty patients with coronavirus; 36 were on the ward and fourteen in ICU. Of the 44 adult ICU beds, twenty are specifically for coronavirus patients. There have been occasions when more beds have been required. In April, there was a peak of 33 patients in intensive care with coronavirus.

The president of the Simebal doctors union in the Balearics, Miguel Lázaro, says that fatigue and overload are affecting ICU personnel. "Among doctors there is an air of exhaustion, especially because of services related to Covid." He adds that there is a good deal of "indignation" that health workers, as with other public sector employees, are having salaries frozen; the Balearics is the only region to have adopted this pay policy.

Lázaro complains that Son Espases doesn't replace doctors who have to quarantine. Health professionals have been suffering "cumulative chronic stress" since March. He wants the government to hire more doctors.

The Satse nurses union is also demanding more recruitment. Twelve nursing professionals are urgently needed for ICU. Personnel are being dragged down by "wear and tear". The union is critical of the continuous rotation of temporary personnel in ICU. This means bringing in nurses without previous experience of critical care. They have to be trained on the job, and this adds to already "very high workloads".

Carmen Sanclemente, the Son Espases medical director, is proud of the work of health professionals since the first case of coronavirus was detected in February. With regard to union complaints, she says that there will be more recruitment. The bulk of the hiring since March was during the first wave, when 118 personnel were taken on, thirteen of whom were doctors.

Hiring, she adds, is planned in order to cover holidays that are owed to doctors and nurses, and she explains that Son Espases has enabled a psychological and psychiatric service for personnel. "The hiring is continuing and the support for the professionals as well."

The hospital, says Sanclemente, is preparing so that it can accommodate 113 ICU beds. "We have made a forecast in case things go badly. It's not known how the virus will behave after the Constitution and Christmas holidays, and we don't know when the vaccine will arrive. But there is a forecast, nevertheless."

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