An increase in respiratory viruses is putting additional pressure on the primary healthcare sector across Alicante, with family doctors currently treating an average of 10 patients with colds, pharyngitis, or bronchitis a day.
The situation has become so complicated it is already leading to a backlog in doctor’s surgeries, resulting in an increase in assistance provided at hospital emergency rooms. The appointment schedules of some professionals are completely full, and it is impossible to book either a face-to-face or telephone consultation, for up to 20 days, although the average waiting period ranges between 10 and 15 days.
The situation is worse than last year, since there were hardly any other viruses circulating thanks to the extreme protection measures that were adopted to stop the advance of Covid. A year later, these measures have been substantially relaxed. The mask is no longer used with such zeal outdoors, even if there is crowding; No longer are many people as careful about interpersonal distances and social gatherings have multiplied.
The consequence is that this year it is again like before the pandemic, with the same viruses circulating, but with Primary Care still monopolised by the covid. “The work is double that of two years ago, because you have to be very cautious and when a patient with respiratory symptoms arrives, you have to order a test to rule out that it could be Covid,” explains María Ángeles Medina, president of the Valencian Society of Family and Community Medicine.
Every day she sees a dozen patients with these problems, ranging from fever to common colds, or bronchitis. “We try to explain to the patients that, if the symptoms appear mild, they should stay at home, in isolation, taking some anti-flu medication, and only in case of complications come in or call us, because we are very concerned that people get together in the waiting room”, adds Medina.
The increase in patients suffering from cold-related problems is not the only complication causing problems. The increase in sick leave by professionals affected by Covid or quarantining after being in contact with somebody with Coronavirus is also amplifying the problem.
According to data provided by the Medical Union in Alicante, there are 122 hospital and health centre workers currently on sick leave due to the virus and 64 are in quarantine for having been in close contact with a positive case. Last week, there were 58 on sick and 31 in isolation.