To keep a healthy distance it is common to see patients queuing in front of health centres. | Sabrina Vidal

The impact of the sixth wave of coronavirus is taking its toll on health personnel, especially in the health centres, where staff are suffering fatigue, stress and anxiety due to the daily collapse of care for respiratory patients. "After the long weekend in December, COVID cases began to rise sharply. If in a quiet period we called about 50 people, now every morning there are between 180 and 200," explains Ana Company, a nurse at an outpatient clinic in the Migjorn area.

In her centre there is a reinforcement of two extra workers but "they are not enough," she explains. Company believes that this situation of "overwhelming workload" is common to the whole island and warns that, after almost two years of pandemic, "we are very tired, with anxiety, insomnia, sick leave due to depression ... the nerves are at the surface, we do not even talk well among us. We can't stand it anymore," she said.

At the Son Rullán health centre in Palma, there is only one person attending to COVID cases. "In the end we had to turn to helping respiratory patients, in addition to continuing with our tasks," adds Cristina Elías. "Between face-to-face consultations, information calls or InfoCOVID referrals, which are saturated, the queue of patients leaves the health centre," she acknowledges. "The other day there was a moment when I had to go outside to breathe, tears were flowing because I couldn't take it anymore. And we are all like that," she assures, as does her colleague. Elías explains that there are citizens who wait between an hour or an hour and a half to be seen in the respiratory consultation, "people get desperate but there is only one.... The rest of us are helping".

They ask the public for patience, and if they suspect that they are infected that they isolate themselves and try not to saturate the queues "because there will be tests and sick leave, but calmly, because there are many," says Ana Company. "We ask for respect for the users because we have been like this for two years and, myself, after two hours of carrying an epi and doing antigen tests, the last patient shouting at me, it burns me". Both recognise that the situation is complicated "for everyone" and ask for empathy, because "it's not that we don't want to answer the phone," they warn.

Máximo De Alzaga and his pregnant partner have both tested positive for Covid and are unable to get through to the specialised telephone number, which is just ringing out. "The problem is that they give us no alternative and the service is deficient. We have called the hospital and again we are referred to InfoCOVID, we will only have to go to the emergency room," he said. For her part, nurse Cristina Elías, states: "I understand the people who are not feeling well but the staff do what they can, we ask for empathy and understanding from the population, the last thing we need is aggression or to be shouted at and treated badly because it overloads us more, and we cannot go faster".

Both professionals also ask the IB-Salut "to value our work a little more because good words do not compensate, they do not remove neither the stress nor the fear of going to work because you do not know how you will end up today." The secretary general of the Nursing Union, Jorge Tera, also recalls that before the summer measures were proposed to alleviate the overload and "nobody listened to us". Tera points out that now there are no vaccination centres, nor express COVID, "so everything that was done in the external points has gone to the health centres and the workload has been overwhelmed". Measures have been adopted and protocols have been made more flexible, but the volume is very high and "when a system is overloaded and you don't have solutions, people just start working with the one in front of them," he said.