Argentina: ”The dressing room became our therapy couch”
For Ingrid Perez in Argentina, the psychological pressure has been the most difficult aspect of the pandemic. After exhausting shifts with dying patients and frustrated relatives, the changing room became a therapeutic breathing space for her and her colleagues.
“For me, the second wave was the worst. The patients who came in then were much younger, my own age. They could have good saturation levels in the morning and a few hours later they sank completely, suffered shortness of breath and were moved to the intensive care unit. It was hard to see, and it affected me badly.
By this time, I had isolated myself from my family, who were among those classed as at risk, and I was living with a friend who had lost her job due to the pandemic. When I got home from work on the covid ward, I just wanted to cry. Then she took care of me – we talked, watched movies and danced. That was my salvation.
Usually, I work in a mixed department for both medicine and surgery at a private hospital in Buenos Aires. When covid cases began to rise at the end of March 2020, all beds were reassigned to take care of covid patients. In a short time, the number of care places increased from 500 to just over 650. At the same time, many of the staff became ill due to a lack of protective equipment. There was a severe shortage of nurses, and the managers had to go in and work on the wards. Several of my days off were cancelled and we never knew when we would be able to go home. Sometimes we took double shifts and worked 16 hours straight.
Workplace: Department of Medicine and Surgery at the Sanatorio Colegiales private hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Salary: Approximately SEK 4 500 per month.
Qualifications: Nursing degree.
When we finished work and had to change, we could ease the pressure. The dressing room became our therapist’s couch, where we could talk about everything we had gone through. Patients we couldn’t save, people who died alone, relatives who couldn’t come to visit. It was so tough. The fact that there was someone who just listened has meant an awful lot and my colleagues have become more important to me than ever.
The pandemic has shone a light on the important work we nurses do. At the same time, we still have very low salaries. We’ve struggled for a long time to be recognised as a qualified profession and not be valued like administrators. In several places, nurses protested, wrote letters to newspapers and took to social media. The government gave all healthcare staff bonuses on three occasions last year, and we will get the same this year as well. But the bonus gets eaten up quickly by inflation and doesn’t improve our low basic salaries.
In March this year, all healthcare workers received the Sputnik vaccine. Vaccination coverage is good in Argentina, and the spread of infection has decreased. Now it’s time to get back to our lives again after such a long time in quarantine. My psychologist, with whom I’ve had close contact throughout, has told me that I have to work on it. Hopefully I can visit a milonga and dance the tango again soon.”
Interviewer: Sanna Björkman
corona in argentina
Cases: 5 253 765
Deaths: 115 038
Fully vaccinated: 59,0%
Source: Johns Hopkins University and Ourworldindata, 30 September 2021.