More than 100 professionals from different disciplines have set up a specialist COVID-19 centre in a wing of the Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital in Petare, northeast Caracas, Venezuela.
The plan to rehabilitate the hospital’s infrastructure and create an inpatient unit, including intensive care beds, where COVID-19 patients can receive medical and psychological care, is being carried out by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in collaboration with Venezuelan authorities and the hospital's management team. Hospital staff have also received personal protective equipment (PPE) and training.
MSF staff working with hospital staff across disciplines
A team, made up of MSF and hospital staff and including doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, psychologists, technicians and transport and maintenance staff, has already begun caring for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.
We know that, in many countries, health workers have been exposed to risk, and there have been many infections due to the lack of PPE.Isaac Alcalde, MSF emergency coordinator
“It has been hard work and not without its challenges, due to the urgency of the situation and the need to adapt the hospital structure to the biosecurity measures, without compromising the rest of its emergency activities,” says Isaac Alcalde, coordinating MSF's emergency responses in Caracas and Miranda. “This has been possible thanks to the willingness of MSF staff and the hospital’s management team to find the best solutions for patients. It's a new situation for everyone.”
Challenges in providing protective equipment
So far, one of the biggest challenges for MSF in our global response to COVID-19 has been the shortage of PPE for our medical teams.
“We know that, in many countries, health workers have been exposed to risk, and there have been many infections due to the lack of PPE,” says Alcalde. “We will do our best to ensure that this does not happen here.”
“But even with sufficient protection, the medical teams will face very difficult situations, both personally and professionally,” continues Alcalde. “We will make sure to provide them with all the support they need, including psychological support, to minimise the impact of this extraordinary situation.”
MSF providing contact tracing, psychological care
People arriving at the Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital with suspected COVID-19 are received by a medical team and questioned about their symptoms before being tested, either with a rapid test or with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Those who test positive are taken to the isolation area to be stabilised and to receive medical and psychological care.
An MSF team visits patients’ families to provide health information and psychological support, while actively tracing the patient’s contacts and searching for other people with symptoms within their community.
The COVID-19 centre has 22 beds, including 16 inpatient beds and 6 intensive care beds. We are also operating three ambulances, and have rehabilitated a further five public ambulances, for transporting patients between hospitals and between local diagnosis centres and hospitals. These are available not only for coronavirus patients but for patients suffering from other medical emergencies.