Dr. Jorge Nunes Interview

Fighting Covid-19 on the frontline, Dr. Jorge Nunes, resident at Belas Clube de Campo since 2006, specialist in Intensive Medicine, and coordinator of the Intensive Care Unit of Lisbon’s Hospital Lusíadas, hereby gives us his testimony, of this difficult battle.

How do you describe the current pandemic we are facing?

Besides the massive effort of health systems to provide an adequate response, it further represents a great challenge to the society, not only due to the impairing economic impact, but mainly by the need to ponder the priorities set. It is also a humbling experience for all of us.

Do you think Portugal is handling this crisis well? What could be improved?

We are still on the onset of the pandemic and is, thus, very early to precisely assess our response. There was clearly a delay in implementing some initial measures, such as the control and screening of people arriving from infected areas. But, right now, we can celebrate some achievements, such as the flattening of the curve, regarding infected cases, to, thus, be able to maintain an adequate capacity of health services, as of now. And we should also be proud of the extraordinary reorganization capacity of hospitals, carried out by health professions in record time, which, along with the quality and dedication, lead to a low number of deaths, when compared to other countries. On a positive note, it is also important to stress the behaviour of Portuguese people, who soon understood, and undertook, the responsibility to fight this disease, as demonstrated by the calm adoption of the social distancing measures. It is necessary to further continue implementing preventive routines to fight “other” illnesses.

From your perspective, is the health system providing an adequate response?

Yes, we must not forget that are other diseases, besides COVID-19, requiring treatment. Systems have conducted very intense reorganizations, in order to respond to the pandemic, and, simultaneously, to all other pathologies, such as cancer patients, whose treatments and interventions were not interrupted. Furthermore, the introduction of technology was accelerated to allow the remote follow-up of many patients, such as teleconsultation, which implies a significant change in the physician-patient relationship, but, thus far, the outcomes have been very satisfactory.

As a healthcare professional, what advice would you give to families when the state of emergency ends and some activities are resumed?

We are still at the onset of the pandemic. The future is very uncertain and, in the medium-term, is not foreseen any efficient vaccine or treatment. For this reason, the restart of some activities needs to happen in a gradual and orderly manner, with the adoption of new habits, such as the use of protection masks, reorganization of spaces and work models, in order to ensure social distancing. Likewise, in our private lives will also be necessary to maintain some of the recent restrictions, so there is no sudden resurgence in the number of infected persons. Thus, we all need to be patient and resilient, in order to win this “war”, which is achieved with small daily victories. I am certain that “everything will be alright”, if we maintain our responsible behaviour in society.