MADRID (AP) – As with many people, things have changed for doctors at one of the best sports medicine clinics in Spain.
Instead of performing shoulder and knee surgeries or helping athletes recover from an injury, they are now putting patients on a ventilator and working to save the lives of people infected with coronavirus.
La Clínica CEMTRO is one of the many private medical centers in Spain that are now used to treat COVID-19 patients in the hard-hit European country that has recorded nearly 190,000 confirmed cases of virus, behind only the United States.
The clinic is one of three in Spain recognized by FIFA as a “medical center of excellence”. It was put into action after the country overhauled its health system when the government declared a state of emergency and took control of all private hospitals and clinics.
Clínica CEMTRO’s medical director, Ángel Galindo, said that until recently, one in five COVID-19 patients in Madrid was treated in private hospitals.
“It was a great challenge to change all of our human and material resources, from the simplest to the most complex,” Galindo told the Associated Press. “We were not used to treating this type of patient. Everything is now much more difficult for our staff. “
The clinic has already treated athletes such as cyclist Alberto Contador, real Madrid football player Marco Asensio, former defender of Atlético Madrid Filipe Luis and Olympic gold medalist Carolina Marín. He also dealt with Spanish Olympic hopefuls such as boxer Lara García and race walker Diego García.
Among the clinic staff was Ana de la Torre, who works for Getafe and was the first female team doctor in the first Spanish division.
The clinic suspended most of its regular activities in mid-March when the Spanish government declared a state of emergency which is expected to last at least until April 26. She had to transform herself in no time, change her routine and use almost all of her resources to treat patients with coronavirus. Staff had to be retrained to learn new medical protocols and how to protect themselves.
The changes had a physical and emotional impact.
“When you have an operation, you have a timetable for everything, you know more or less when you will recover and when you resume your activity,” said Galindo. “The problem we have now is that we know when we start treatment, but we don’t know when it will end. Emotionally, it’s very exhausting.”
Clinic staff start their day individually at separate tables during breakfast to reduce the risk of infection. Protective gear is now part of their daily gear, and some wear numbers and names drawn on the back of their protective suit, much like soccer jerseys.
Galindo said he sees the clinic as a football team, where everyone should participate.
“The strikers alone cannot score goals,” he said. “You need a goalkeeper, defenders and the whole team. I think at CEMTRO we have that, from cleaning staff to maintenance staff, administrative staff and health staff. Everyone has come together as a team so that we can overcome this very difficult situation. “
The clinic still cares for patients who need emergency treatment for injuries, but the staff is mainly dedicated to COVID-19 patients who are referred by public hospitals that have been overwhelmed in recent weeks.
Nearly 19,500 people died in Spain with the coronavirus. About 75,000 have recovered.
Clínica CEMTRO is currently not paid by the government for its services, even though most of its resources are now used to treat patients with coronavirus. The government helped by providing drugs and some protective equipment, but not financially.
“Now is not the time to talk about it,” said Galindo. “Right now, we’re just trying to help these patients. We do our part as a private entity. Everything else will be discussed later. “