Nurses in Brazil: the heroines without a grade of coronavirus

Infirmières au Brésil: les héroïnes sans grade du coronavirus

Rio de Janeiro | With on-call hours, endless, low wages and the fear to report on the coronavirus in the home, the nursing staff in Brazil is for more than three months in the front line in the fight against this pandemic is out of control.

More than 180 of these caregivers have sacrificed their lives in battle against the Covid-19, appeared in late February in this country of 210 million people. And more than 18 000 of them have been contaminated. Among them : Hans Bossan.

“We are very undervalued. It is in direct contact with the sick, the virus, in a war zone”, told AFP Hans Bossan, in his home of Sao Gonçalo.

It is in this disadvantaged suburban area of Rio de Janeiro that saw this nurse of 41 years with his wife and their little girl of two years.

It is poised to begin a work week of 72 hours, in two different hospitals and the Ambulance, this away from home from Wednesday to Sunday, and with pauses brief to feed and rest.

“The hospital staff has always been overloaded, but with this pandemic, it is worse,” said Mr. Bossan.

It has been tested positive and remained asymptomatic. It has been isolated in his home for 15 days, before returning to his work.

“I enchaînais the guards to meet the needs of the hospitals (in lieu of caregivers fell sick, ed) and make a living for my family. I do not go out with a single job,” he explains.

“Anxiety and depression”

The average monthly salary of nurses and nursing auxiliaries is 3 000 réais (540 euros), for a week from 30 to 44 hours, according to the Cofen (federal Council of nursing), who claimed the double for years.

The nurses “pass through this period with a lot of anxiety and depression”, told AFP Nadia Mattos, vice-president of Cofen, who has established a service of psychological assistance 24h/24.

Health professionals have had to face the first wave of cases without personal protective equipment or adequate training, ” said Ms. Mattos.

Even if the situation has improved, “we continue to receive complaints about the lack of these facilities, and the poor quality of those that are provided,” she said. Women account for more than 80% of the 2.3 million nurses registered in Brazil.

That is to say, that after days of double, or even triple, a lot of them go home to take care of their family. And with the fear of infecting their loved ones.

According to the International Council of nurses, based in Geneva, more than 600 of these caregivers have been killed in the world by the coronavirus. But the Council has said to the AFP that the figure had been compiled on the basis of “a limited number” of countries.

Among the 181 deaths in Brazil, 39 were working in the State of Sao Paulo and 36 in that of Rio de Janeiro, two of the worst homes.

Both were colleagues of Hans Bossan.

“Lots of love”

On this day, Hans goes to the Centre of Intensive Therapy of the Hospital Ernesto Che Guevara to Maricá, a public centre of excellence inaugurated a month ago to 60 km away from Rio.

He has already accumulated more than 40 hours of work in the three guards.

Protected from head to foot, he moves with agility between the beds to check on the status of the patients.

Here the conditions are exceptional: not less than four physicians and at least five nurses watching over a dozen patients suffering from respiratory failure.

Some are sedated and intubated. Not The Eliane Lima.

“The doctors and nurses are excellent,” says this 56 year old woman while breathing with an oxygen mask. “They treat us with a lot of love, it is so necessary in a place like this”.

In the unit of semi-intensive care, Flavia Menezes, a health care aide, has lost several of his colleagues, and calls for greater recognition, pay, in particular, for the profession.

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