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As soon as the lifeless body is quietly pushed onto a gurney, a cleaning battalion moves to the intensive care box.

In a matter of minutes, the bed where the 72-year-old woman struggled for more than two weeks to breathe again is cleaned, the glass walls that insulate her are disinfected with a squeegee.

There is little time to reflect on what just happened, as death gives way to the possibility of saving another life.

Patients with COVID-19 receive treatment at the new Isabel Zendal Nursing Hospital in Madrid Madrid, Spain. (AP)

“Our greatest joy is obviously emptying a bed, but because someone has been discharged and not because they have passed away,” said Ignacio Pujol, head of this UCI in Madrid.

“That’s a little space for someone else to have another chance.”

As a wave of infections Putting the Spanish public health system back on the ropes, the Hospital Nurse Isabel Zendal that employs Mr. Pujol, a project seen by many as an extravagant vanity company, is having a new opportunity to demonstrate its usefulness.
Named in honor of the 19th century. Spanish A nurse who was vaccinated against smallpox across the Atlantic Ocean, the facility was built in 100 days at a cost of 130 million euros (205 million Australian dollars), more than double the original budget.

It has three pavilions and support buildings in an area the size of 10 soccer fields, looking somewhere between a small airport terminal and an industrial warehouse, with ventilation ducts, medical beds, and state-of-the-art equipment. The original project was for 1000 beds, of which about half have been installed so far.

Doctors use an ultrasound to examine the lungs of a patient with COVID-19 at the new Isabel Zendal Nurse Hospital in Madrid Madrid, Spain. (AP)
A medical team from the new Isabel Zendal Nurse Hospital performs a fiberoptic bronchoscopy on a patient from the COVID-19 ICU in Madrid, Spain. (AP)

The Zendal opened to a roar of fanfare and competing criticism on December 1 of last year, just as Spain appeared to curb a post-summer surge in coronavirus infections.

By mid-December, it had only received a handful of patients.

But Spain registered more than 84,000 new COVID-19 infections on Monday, the highest increase in a single weekend since the pandemic began.

The country’s overall count targets 2.5 million cases with 53,000 confirmed virus deaths, although excess mortality statistics add more than 30,000 deaths to that.

As the contagion curve intensified after Christmas and New Years, Zendal has gotten to work.

As of Monday, 392 patients were being treated, more than at any other hospital in the region of 6.6 million.

The rise in Spain follows similar increases in infections in other European countries, especially in the United Kingdom after the discovery of a new virus variant that, according to experts, is more infectious.
A patient infected by COVID-19 is transferred to the new Isabel Zendal Nursing Hospital in Madrid Madrid, Spain. (AP)

The London Nightingale, one of Britain’s temporary hospitals designed to ease pressure on the country’s overwhelmed health care system, has also reopened for patients and as a vaccination center.

Spain’s top health officials insist they have found no evidence that the new variants wreaking havoc elsewhere contribute in any way to their own infections.

Some experts argue that claiming that the country’s limited capacity to sequence coronavirus cases is distorting reality and that a new stay-at-home order is necessary.

On the ground, rising hospitalizations because the virus has already passed the peak of the second resurgence.

Almost one in five hospital beds has a COVID-19 patient. The new disease is also occupying a third of the capacity of the country’s ICU and non-urgent surgeries are already being canceled.

Along with some medical experts, left-wing politicians and workers’ unions accuse Madrid’s conservative government of spending on equipment to attract votes rather than bolstering a public health system that they have not adequately funded for years.

A medical team from the new Isabel Zendal Nurse Hospital checks a patient inside a COVID-19 ICU in Madrid, Spain. (AP)
Patients with COVID-19 receive treatment at the new Isabel Zendal Nursing Hospital in Madrid Madrid, Spain. (AP)

Investing previously in contact tracing and primary care, they say, could have avoided the need for a Zendal altogether.

“More than the success they presume, the filling of this makeshift hospital represents a tremendous failure of those who are at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, and also a failure of all of us as a society that could have done better,” said Angela Hernández. , spokesperson for Madrid’s main medical workers union, AMYTS.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for the unions, he said, has been the regional government firing medical personnel who refuse to leave their posts in regular hospitals when they are reassigned to Zendal.

“The project has been silly from start to finish,” Ms. Hernández said.

“A few beds without adequate staff do not make a hospital.”

Fernando Prados, Zendal’s manager, says he doesn’t mind the debate, but the 750 patients treated over the past month and a half have already relieved significant pressure on other hospitals.

“We have already contributed in one way or another,” Prados said.

“We know that we will continue to have COVID patients and once the pandemic is over, this infrastructure will be here for any other emergency.”

A member of the health team treats a patient with COVID-19 at the new Isabel Zendal Nursing Hospital in Madrid, Spain. (AP)

Past the automatic glass doors, patients recover in eight-bed modules, leaving little room for privacy but providing better monitoring of possible complications in their recovery, said Verónica Real, whose challenge as head of nursing has been to organize nursing teams. staff from other hospitals.

“Some of the health workers come in with some anger at all the noise that is over our hospital,” said Ms. Real.

“But once here, the attitude changes completely.”

Zendal managers say that a modern ventilation system renews the air in the entire facility every 5 minutes, contributing to a safer work environment.

But they are most proud of the expansion of the intermediate respiratory care unit, where patients receive various types of assisted respiration to overcome lung inflammation.

Unit chief Pedro Landete says that by admitting potentially worsening patients to one of its 50 highly equipped beds, they are reducing the number of people who then require the most demanding intensive care.

A patient with COVID-19 sits on a bed at the new Hospital Nurse Isabel Zendal in Madrid Madrid, Spain. (AP)
As the coronavirus contagion curve became increasingly vertical after Christmas and New Years, the Zendal has been busy. (AP)

José Andrés Armada arrived with mild symptoms at the facility after his entire family caught the infection despite what he said was a very careful approach to the pandemic.

But the 63-year-old’s health deteriorated rapidly and last week he was about to be intubated in one of Zendal’s twelve ICU boxes.

“I know that the economy is something that must be safeguarded, but health is more important. We should already be locked up. You can’t have bars and other open places,” said the former businessman.

“I never imagined that I could attack you like that.”

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