Although the coronavirus outbreak has caused a global mask shortage, Dr. Scheybi Miralda Méndez makes her rounds at the University School Hospital (HEU, in Spanish) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, knowing that she is wearing the right equipment to protect her patients and herself from any infection. She owes her peace of mind to the personal protective equipment (PPE) that U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) donated in late April, through its humanitarian assistance program.
“We can work reliably because we have proper PPE. This is reflected in the parents or guardians; they feel confident, and they no longer fear that the infection may come from us,” Dr. Miralda, head of the Emergency Pediatrics Unit at HEU, told Diálogo.
At HEU emergency room, some 75 doctors care for patients with COVID-19 symptoms, such as pneumonia, or other illnesses that need urgent treatment. The hospital staff provides masks to every patient admitted and their accompanying family member. For Dr. Miralda, the measure brings more than safety.
“Being admitted at the hospital causes higher levels of stress [in patients]. They already feel stressed about being admitted, and if they feel that we are not protected, it causes them more stress, more distrust. That’s why it’s important for them to see that we are protected,” said Dr. Miralda.
The HEU medical staff highly appreciates the donation, especially in the Emergency Pediatrics Unit, which treats 100 to 800 children and performs an average of 600 to 800 surgeries each month.
“Six to eight participants, including surgeons and anesthesiologists, take part in every surgery, depending on the procedure,” said Dr. Miralda on the importance of PPE.
In total, SOUTHCOM made six PPE deliveries, which consisted of thousands of N95 masks, gloves, sanitizing gel, medical gowns, and infrared thermometers for first-responder institutions, the Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (COPECO, in Spanish) said in a statement. The HEU, COPECO’s National Risk Management System, and the Honduran Armed Forces’ Humanitarian Rescue Unit (UHR, in Spanish) were among the first institutions to receive the PPE donations.
“This donation we have received helps us minimize the risk of infection, because we have the proper material to protect our staff when we go house to house,” Honduran Army Colonel Manuel Edgardo Melgar Viera, UHR commander, told Diálogo. To respond to the coronavirus crisis, UHR units have been distributed food to the most vulnerable communities in the country, and have needed PPE to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We are grateful for SOUTHCOM’s donation to the staff who are exposed due to the work we are currently doing, as we bring to our people the food that our government is providing them,” said Col. Melgar.