On 1 May 1, the largest field hospital in Europe closed its doors against the coronavirus. Where health workers, psychologists, catering and cleaning staff, military personnel and technicians attended to 4,000 patients in just over 40 days
In a few years’ time, when we look back and remember the difficult times Spain is going through now, surely one of the first things that will come to mind will be the image of IFEMA, the Madrid exhibition centre, with thousands of beds occupying the halls that usually host exhibitions and displays. A hospital that was set up in record time and where thousands of patients recovered from the virus.
The IFEMA Hospital, which closed its doors on 1 May, has undoubtedly been one of the symbols of the fight against Covid-19 in Spain. In its 35,000 square meters distributed in 3 pavilions, 1,350 beds were installed – 16 intensive care wards – in which some 4,000 patients were treated, 98% of which have overcome the disease. The transfer of these patients, most of them with mild symptoms, to IFEMA, was carried out to take the pressure off the rest of the hospitals in Madrid, the most affected region of the country. A joint effort that was described as “extraordinary” by Bruce Aylward, Covid-19 Chief Expert of the World Health Organization (WHO) during his visit to the facilities.
The Heroes of IFEMA
The incredible work carried out there would not have been possible without the following professionals: from the army, the Military Emergency Unit, Madrid Fire Department, Summa 112, Samur, volunteers and hundreds of entities and private companies who provided donations and helped with the delivery of material that helped to set up the facility in a matter of days; to the hundreds of health workers who fought on the front line against the virus.
In terms of figures, 320 doctors, 382 nurses, 250 nursing assistants and 167 guards worked at the IFEMA hospital, in addition to pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, supervisors, x-ray teams, laboratory and pharmacy technicians and administrative assistants. In total, more than 1,200 professionals were involved in battling the coronavirus and providing the best possible care for thousands of patients.
The effort of the teams in charge of feeding patients, health care workers, members of the UME and homeless people housed in another of the wards has been commendable. The company in charge, Compass Group, prepared and served more than 176,000 meals since 21 March, including breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. This work has been possible thanks to a kitchen team trade up of over 150 people at maximum occupation times, and has been operational 24 hours a day. In addition to the IFEMA facilities, these kitchens have also been serving food to other hospitals and social support centres in Madrid. With the hospital closed, the kitchen team continues to provide food for the homeless who remain at IFEMA.
Without forgetting the cleaning staff, from the company Clece – a company that has also managed the 28 hotels that have been used as medical facilities in Madrid – whose efforts in cleaning and disinfecting the facilities have been essential to prevent contagion and guarantee safety to both patients and health professionals.
In addition to the public budgets for its construction, the IFEMA hospital has also received more than a hundred donations: four million for ICU beds and material from Banco Santander; external batteries for mobile phones from BBVA; bottles of water from Aldi; free gas from Naturgy; 8,000 masks delivered by Mercedes-Benz and food and drink from Mercadona, among many other contributions.
The hospital is closed, but not entirely
The last pavilion to close was pavilion 9, after a first phase of closing in which pavilion 7 had already been closed. However, the fact that these pavilions are no longer active does not mean that IFEMA will close completely as a centre for combating coronavirus.
On the contrary, its logistics centre, which delivers medical equipment to hospitals and residential centres, will remain open, as will ward 14, which is set up for homeless people.
In fact, even if there is no medical activity, the facilities in the closed wards will remain intact during the next month, both the beds and other equipment – the oxygen facility, for example. The aim is to be able to reactivate the hospital in less than 48 hours if necessary, due to a possible resurgence of the disease.
In addition to IFEMA, the considerable decrease in the number of cases, has also led to the closure of other field hospitals in Fuenlabrada and Leganés, The medicalized hospitals that, in that Community alone, have treated 2,724 patients since March, are also retreating.