Local Daily News 2nd December
The lack of personnel and the healthcare pressure overwhelm the Torrevieja emergency service
“As long as this situation is maintained, we recommend to the population of the department that they do not go to the Emergency Room of the University Hospital of Torrevieja, that they go to other hospitals.” This is how an Emergency Physician at the University Hospital of Torrevieja summarized on Tuesday the saturation that the health center has been enduring in the last two days in which significant healthcare pressure, lack of coordination between departments of the health center, and a labor dispute that has lasted since October: doctors without specializing, mostly practicing in the Emergency Department, and who have not been substituted as permanent personnel by the Ministry of Health in the reversal process. Something that has generated a trickle of resignations of professionals – three between Tuesday and Wednesday – that yesterday left an emergency room that serves a potential population of 180,000 residents of ten municipalities with a single physician. Two more who left the shift supported their work for a few hours until management reacted by incorporating more healthcare workers throughout the day. Each shift is usually covered by four to five doctors.
The members of the works council appeared at the entrance of the emergency room, with a constant coming and going of ambulances, to explain that this situation Tuesday led to the presence of 36 patients in Observation waiting to be admitted, and in delays of more than 15 hours to attend mild and moderate cases. “The safety of patients and that of the doctors themselves who are facing dozens of cases is compromised,” they pointed out, with the legal risk posed by health care in these conditions and in an environment of tension due to waiting and inability to attend correctly to all patients, which has forced them to turn to the Civil Guard on more than one occasion in recent days.
Ana Linares, president of the committee, indicated that the opening by the management of the wing of reinforcement rooms a couple of weeks ago is not capable of alleviating the care pressure because it does not come accompanied by more human resources or the ability to perform tests since other specialized areas such as radiology also remain low. Thus, the average stay has not stopped growing since the 15th of October, according to the same sources, says the committee.
Linares (CSIF) also said that they anticipated to the Ministry of Health months ago what could happen if the management did not take into account the uniqueness of the Emergency service in Torrevieja: a large percentage of elderly people; with convergence of serious chronic pathologies; and a majority of foreign patients, who do not do well speaking Spanish and who also arrive alone at the emergency room door, without relatives or acquaintances who are accompanying them.
In this context, José Peris, from the Medical Union, wondered about the responsibility of the members of the new management of the health center or of the Ministry of Health to whom this “happened just five days after starting the reversal” of the Ribera Health model.. And he regretted that the medical direction blamed exclusively the emergency physicians for the situation. While Fran García (CC OO) urged the ten mayors of the area to pressure the Ministry of Health to act and resolve the precariousness of the Emergency service, at a time when the incidence of covid is rebounding.
The committee warned that this way it will be very difficult for job vacancies to be filled “because nobody wants to come to Torrevieja. It was already very difficult before. Doctors are not going to risk it because they work with people’s health. The work environment is bad and those who are there feel that they are leaving them alone.”
The Ministry of Health reiterated yesterday that it limits itself to complying with the law: it cannot hire doctors without the specialty as permanent personnel. Something that state legislation establishes.
Benidorm foresees 90% occupancy on the long weekend with almost half of the hotels closed
Next week’s long weekend for the Constitution (Monday, 6th) and Immaculate (Wednesday, 8th) national holidays may once again leave a record occupation in Benidorm and other destinations on the Costa Blanca. This is how the Hosbec hotel association advanced this Wednesday, which foresees that the tourist city will be able to avoid the latent concern about the new spike in infections that is taking place throughout Europe and fill more than 90% of its places from this weekend. Now, although the forecast offered by the business group predicts record figures, it should not be overlooked that the city currently has almost half of its hotels closed; that is, around fifty establishments out of service, which translates into close to 20,000 closed beds compared to the almost 22,000 available, which greatly conditions the final occupancy data.
In any case, what does seem clear is that tourism is succeeding, for the moment, in defying all the elements that are against it. This is clear from the occupation advance offered by the sector and from other data that also confirm it. For now, the airlines that operate at the Alicante-Elche provincial airport, including Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways or Jet2.com, plan to continue operating normally throughout the month of December, despite the new restrictions imposed on travel between Spain and the United Kingdom, which oblige all Britons who enter the province to travel with the full vaccination schedule and to undergo a PCR test upon returning from their holidays.
Likewise, the president of Hosbec, Toni Mayor, said this Wednesday that the rebound in covid cases in recent weeks and the restrictions that are taking place in different European countries have not affected reserves for now, although there is concern about what may end up happening around the holidays. Mayor has valued the forecasts in the tourist capital for this long weekend as “very positive”, even despite the fact that the evolution of the pandemic has been complicated in recent weeks.
“Cases are increasing and there are countries, such as Germany or the United Kingdom, that have quite high rates. In addition, these factors have now been joined by the new omicron variant, which despite the fact that it seems to manifest itself with mild symptoms, is adding uncertainty to the panorama,” Mayor lamented. Despite all this, the employer’s leader assured that “reservations are not being canceled” in the face of the national holidays, despite the fact that the plant is greatly reduced in number of places, something that Mayor also felt sorry for: “If the Imserso had already been activated, surely we would have 7,000 or 8,000 more open beds.” Another thing is what may happen from now on. “There is a lot sold for Christmas, so we are going to see what is the evolution of events, since the rate of cases does not stop rising and restrictions may begin to arrive,” he emphasized.
Hidraqua will be able to detect the omicron variant in the covid analysis of wastewater
Hidraqua, together with its business group Agbar, has developed a new characterization system for COVID variants in wastewater, which allows the identification of the new omicron variant. This novel tool combines advanced molecular diagnostic techniques based on environmental genomics that allow the evolution of the virus and its variants to be monitored, as well as the identification of possible new mutations that become new variants. The incorporation of this new functionality makes it possible to expand the monitoring and prediction solutions already implemented by the group, based on PCR tests, for the identification of the virus and its variants – which include the analysis of the various strains as they have appeared – and also complies with EU recommendations, which suggest the application of high performance sequencing methods in wastewater on a fortnightly basis as a surveillance and monitoring system for new variants.
The new strain, known as omicron, was first identified in South Africa, and cases have already been detected in Spain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this strain could carry a “higher risk of reinfection”, according to the first preliminary scientific evidence, although the first patients present mild symptoms. COVID-19 City Sentinel is Hidraqua’s surveillance system that, through the group’s network of laboratories, Labaqua, has developed a wastewater analysis system that allows monitoring the evolution of the virus in wastewater and anticipating the appearance of possible new outbreaks in the population. With this solution, public managers have access to all data through a dynamic map of the municipality with a sectorization by areas of influence, which facilitates the detection of the origin of the virus, to help adopt effective measures against new outbreaks.
The COVID-19 City Sentinel solution is the result of a research strategy to develop, in record time, innovative solutions to contribute to the fight against the pandemic. In this way, Hidraqua, together with Agbar, makes its experience and knowledge in sanitation networks available to public managers which, combined with the analytical results, is a valuable source of information so that health officials can adopt effective measures against new strains.
Currently, the COVID-19 City Sentinel solution is implemented in 21 municipalities in which Hidraqua and its affiliated companies operate, which makes it possible to study the behavior of the wastewater of 1.2 million inhabitants of the Valencian Community.
Second case of omicron variant detected in Spain
The regional health department of Madrid on Tuesday confirmed the second case detected so far in Spain of the new coronavirus variant known as omicron. The patient is a traveler from South Africa who flew to Madrid via a stopover in Amsterdam on Monday evening. According to the Madrid health department, the 61-year-old woman had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. After she tested positive for the virus via an antigen and PCR test at Madrid’s Barajas airport, the virus was sequenced. The health department said “she has minor symptoms and is self-isolating and is being monitored.”
The first case of the omicron variant was detected on Monday, also in a traveler from South Africa with a layover in Amsterdam, who arrived in the Spanish capital on November 28. The two passengers, however, arrived on different flights, according to a spokesperson from the Madrid health department. The variant was first found in a 51-year-old man who had been fully immunized with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Like the second passenger, he also presented minor symptoms and is now under quarantine, while Madrid’s Public Health authority tracks all close contacts of the flight that arrived on Sunday, the same spokesperson confirmed.
In Catalonia, another two suspected cases of the omicron variant were detected in Barcelona’s El Prat airport, in two travelers from South Africa. The travelers were in self-isolation while authorities confirmed the results.
Spain tightened travel restrictions on Saturday due to concerns over the omicron variant. Before Saturday, travelers arriving in Spain’s airports were subject to a visual inspection and temperature checks, as well as an antigen test if they were suspected of carrying the coronavirus. Now, in addition to these measures, travelers coming from at-risk countries must also provide a negative Covid test, even if they are fully vaccinated. On Monday, the Spanish Health Ministry also introduced a mandatory 10-day quarantine for passengers from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Due to the uncertainty over the mutations present in the omicron variant, health authorities across the world are closely monitoring the strain. It has not yet been confirmed whether omicron is more contagious, triggers more serious illness or is able to escape the protection offered by Covid-19 vaccines.
In the meantime, coronavirus cases in Spain continue to rise. According to the latest Health Ministry report, released Tuesday evening, the 14-day incidence rate now stands at 208 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – a rise of 9.5 points since Monday. A total of 10,261 new infections were reported, while 44 Covid-19 deaths were added to the official toll, which now stands at 88,052. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 5,164,185 coronavirus cases have been detected.
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 also rose on Tuesday. There are currently 3,947 Covid-19 patients in hospital, up from 3,780 on Monday. This represents 3.1% of all available beds. In Spain’s intensive care units (ICUs), Covid-19 admissions jumped from 673 on Monday to 713, with the occupancy rate rising to 7.76%.
While the world is rushing to close borders in an effort to contain the spread of the new variant, many specialists are skeptical about the effectiveness of this measure. All the experts consulted by this newspaper said that with the available data so far, it is not possible to assert that the new strain causes more serious cases of Covid-19 or that it has the ability to bypass an individual’s antibodies, whether obtained from a vaccine or recovery from the disease.
“It could even be the case that this variant is more transmissible but that it causes a milder form of the disease, which wouldn’t be bad news,” noted Ignacio López-Goñi, a professor of microbiology at Navarre University in northern Spain.