They hardly have time to even talk. Well, to speak yes, but only by phone. In fact, it is what they do for long hours, sometimes looking for close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, at other times monitoring them once they are controlled. They are the trackers, health professionals in whose work rests the enormous responsibility of tackling any outbreak that arises.
“Yes, it is a great responsibility, I prefer not to think about it. But do not fool anyone, the responsibility really lies with each citizen, “he says Esther Amores, a nurse specialist in Primary Care, at the head of the team of trackers in the health area of Real city, with a population of about 265,000 inhabitants. Ester, 25 years old, leads a team of 20 people, divided into two shifts, morning and afternoon, together with another nurse of the same specialty.
All of them are nurses who, until phase 1, were fighting in the first line against the coronavirus in the emergency room and in the ICU of the university hospital of Ciudad Real. Most are Andalusian, hired by the Socialist Government Emiliano García-Page to face what came to them, which was long and very hard, they assure. Castilla la Mancha It has been one of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. In part, due to its proximity to Madrid. Partly also because they had an outbreak related to the funeral held in the Rioja town of Haro. When they managed to detect it, before the silence of those affected (some merchants who went from market to market), La Mancha Central was infected.
They have not had to change their workplace. They are still in the hospital, although far from the ICU. They enabled one of the classrooms where training is given and there they spend the day, in front of a computer and the pinganillo connected to the phone. All two meters apart, with the mask on and the door open so that the classroom is ventilated.
“If people had seen what was lived here in March and April they would behave differently!” Indicates this young woman who is presumed to have a sweet smile, sadly hidden behind the mask. Ester admits that she gets very angry with some images that she sees on television, on the street when she leaves the hospital … “It’s just that I can’t forget those who entered and soon became very ill. We had to turn them upside down, intubated. I hardly saw their faces. They left without me seeing their faces, ”he laments.
I would like to tell each of the close contacts of a positive case “in full detail” every time they find they are not following the instructions. “They are not all, far from it. But there are those who, even though they know why we tell them a thousand times, that they cannot leave their house for 14 days, take your phone saying that you wait a second because they are parking the car. Or those who assure you that they are at home while listening to the hustle and bustle of the street or the megaphone of a shopping center. Or the kid that you contact to tell him that he can’t leave because a contact of his has given a positive result and, since they are of legal age, they don’t tell their parents, and they leave the bottle.
But, he insists, they are the least. “Most follow the rules. Although sometimes it hurts, it bothers them, because if you are a close contact and you have to isolate yourself, you should take the sick leave. And many are distressed by the economic situation. ”
This is the case of a woman who cared for a person who tested positive. The infected patient gave a list of close contacts, people who had to be contacted to isolate themselves. When the woman was called, she denied that she had gone to care for that person in “days.” With a trembling voice and almost crying, he told them that it couldn’t be, that she couldn’t take the loss because she had to work. Before long, the positive patient called and said that he had been wrong, that this woman had not been home for days. It was true? We don’t know, says this team, but they could do little. The only thing, call her frequently in case she noticed any symptoms. “We are not the Civil Guard“They assert. They have neither authority nor power.
However, they can call the Civil Guard if they see, for example, that an employer does not collaborate and does not want to provide them with the telephone numbers of workers who have been in close contact with a positive. They insist that there are very few, but there are some. These allege, in very bad ways, that they can no longer do without people, that they have many economic losses, that hunger is worse … “Everything is understandable, but this is a public health problem,” explains Ester.
The job of trackers is to search and follow up on contacts, never positive ones. Those depend directly on the doctors. When a person tests positive, the team communicates to give them a list of close contacts, those friends, family or coworkers with whom they have had a relationship in the last 48 hours of more than 15 minutes in a space closed. They usually leave about 10 per person and in most cases they have no problem locating them over the phone.
They usually have more problems with coworkers because on many occasions you do not have a mobile and then they turn to employers. Or they only have the first and last name because it was a meeting, for which they do not hesitate even to draw on the medical history. Or unknown contacts that don’t know much … “The truth is that at those moments you look more like a detective than a nurse,” laughs Amores.
Once located, the function of this team is to call them to see how they are and to clarify any questions. Every day they make about 70 calls. “Some are 5 minutes, others one hour. There are people who are very afraid and need to speak, “they explain before returning to the phone.
Ester Amores, 25 years old and from Campo de Criptana (Ciudad Real), is in front, along with another partner, of this team of 20 trackers. “We both have the specialty of Primary Care,” is justified. And it is this level of care, historically abandoned by health officials, on which the detection of new outbreaks rests. Ester chose Primary Care because of her closeness to the patient, her close contact with him. “Life things. It is precisely this close contact that has brought many companions to the grave. More than in hospitals ”, he laments. He assures that he still cannot remove from his head what he lived in the ER and the ICU, where he was assigned as soon as the epidemic spread. “Sometimes, when I come to the hospital, it seems incredible to me how calm he is. We are living a war! ” and is amazed at how human beings forget so quickly. “I understand that it is necessary, but it still costs me.” Amores admits that he never went out to receive applause at eight in the afternoon. “It is not for being ungrateful. But it is that we, in our day to day, we are exposed to important risks, we risk our lives. We handle substances that are dangerous, we are with frequently infected patients and it seems that nobody realizes it. No, I do not want applause, I want Primary Care to be strengthened by everyone, for everyone. ”