Covid-19 Claims Lives of Five Nicaraguan Health Professionals in 24 hours

Anesthesiologist Salvador Ortega passed away this Wednesday, June 3rd, a victim of COVID-19. In this photo he poses with his son, Salvador Ortega Moreno. Photo: Courtesy La Prensa

By Cinthya Torres Garcia  (La Prensa)

HAVANA TIMES – In just one day in Nicaragua, five health professionals died from confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, informed the Nicaraguan Medical Association, UMN (Unidad Medica Nicaraguense).  La Prensa spoke with family members of one of these doctors, who told us how the specialist’s health situation became complicated after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“It’s terrible, devastating for the profession,” stated a UMN spokesperson, who asserted that this situation merits another call to the authorities to act to save lives. He found it very worrisome that doctors continue being exposed to infection, because they are caring for patients without adequate personal protective gear.  The health workers have maintained a demand for this equipment since before the current drastic spike in cases of COVID-19.

Among the five who died on June 3rd are surgeons, an anesthesiologist, a nurse and an optometrist, the Medical Association stated. “This is an SOS”, asserted the UMN source, “because on Wednesday we lost five health professionals that can’t be replaced so easily, given the years of training that becoming a doctor, and later a specialist, implies.  The country already had a lack of health personnel, and with the pandemic, the situation is becoming more difficult,” the spokesperson commented.

Battle against the virus

Juan Salvador Ortega Maliano’s life came to an end this Wednesday, June 3rd, around 5 pm. On Friday, June 12, he would have been celebrating his 68th birthday.  The anesthesiologist, known in his field simply as Salvador Ortega, had retired in 2016.  He dedicated his time to his other passion: his farm and cattle. He became one more victim of COVID-19, noted his son, Norbert Ortega Moreno, also a doctor.

On May 20, the doctor began coughing and had a fever, while his wife, also a health worker, had signs of flu.  With the knowledge he had gained from years of examining the human body and knowing how this ancient machine functions, Ortega took charge of his own care. He knew the appropriate medications and had oxygen on hand for prevention. Nonetheless, the virus advanced, causing him more difficulty breathing, fatigue and persistent fever.

On the insistence of his son, who is in Spain, on May 26 the anesthesiologist decided to go with his wife to Managua’s “Lenin Fonseca” Hospital. Given the seriousness of his condition, he was admitted there, while his wife was told that she could continue to treat herself at home. Seeing that Ortega didn’t improve, the hospital then arranged his transfer to the German-Nicaraguan Hospital, which has become the national reference point for attention to patients suffering from the novel Coronavirus.

On Thursday, May 28, Dr. Salvador Ortega was admitted directly into the Intensive Care Unit at the German-Nicaraguan Hospital, where he received all possible attention, precisely calculated doses of medication, and the affection of his colleagues.

However, by June 1st, he had to go on a ventilator.  His wife was also admitted to the hospital, as she hadn’t improved since that first evaluation in the “Lenin Fonseca”.  There were a lot of people caring for the sick specialist, stated his son, who was confident the doctors at the hospital did everything within their means to care for his father and all the patients. “They treated him well,” he maintains, “there was no problem with that.”

The diagnosis of COVID-19 was confirmed for both his father, in the “German-Nicaraguan” Hospital, and his mother, who remained in the “Lenin Fonseca”.  His father, however, could fight off the virus no longer, and passed away; his mother has gotten better and is now waiting to be released from the hospital.  His son believes that possibly his father went to the hospital too late, because he trusted his own knowledge of medicine.  Often, those of the healing profession believe that they can cure themselves, and it was really not so, his son reflects.

“God knows what He does, and if my father didn’t manage to win the battle, even though the doctors behaved like angels, well, God knows why.  A lot of people knew my father, but with this business of the virus, even though you’re very strong, often you don’t succeed in winning the battle, unfortunately,” Salvador Jr. stated.

Doctors live much closer to death than other professionals. However, not being nearby when your loved one passes is painful. It’s a cocktail of suffering and impotence, especially not being able to travel due to the closed borders as a result of the pandemic, explained Salvador Ortega Moreno.

He relied on the support of his other siblings and relatives who took charge of the cremation process. Now his father’s ashes are waiting for the right moment for all of them together to say their last goodbye.

The other case confirmed by this news source is that of optometrist Jose Alejandro Pereira, who was also being treated at home, passed away this Wednesday in the Monte Espana Hospital.

Confusing data

In Nicaragua the cases of COVID-19 continue rising exponentially, as epidemiologists have warned. Although the Ministry of Health recognizes 1,118 cases and only 46 deaths from COVID-19, independent medical sources affirm that this represents a large sub-registry.  The Citizen’s Observatory is reporting 4,217 suspected positive cases and 980 deaths nationwide.

Part of the government’s statistics that haven’t been made transparent include cases among the health personnel, who are on the front lines and are the ones facing the greatest risk of contagion.  Up to now, the Ortega regime hasn’t officially recognized a single case of COVID-19 among health workers, much less any deaths in the field.