Honduras: “In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, getting to a hospital on time can be lifesaving”

13 May 21

Edgard Boquín is a Honduran psychologist with more than 14 years’ experience working for MSF. He was a general practitioner and mental health supervisor in MSF’s project for survivors of violence, including sexual violence, in Tegucigalpa; he managed the mental health response in the COVID-19 ward at the University Sports Centre; and he is currently deputy coordinator of MSF’s project providing psychological care and ambulance transport for COVID-19 patients.

How have the most vulnerable people in Honduras coped with lockdown restrictions?

“The pandemic has greatly modified our everyday behavior."

"It was an abrupt change and it generated a feeling of emptiness and uncertainty, as well as making people more vulnerable to situations such as suffering violence or being unable to access medical treatments because of the risk of infection with COVID-19.”

A migrant from Haiti receives mental health attention in Trojes, Honduras.

What are the psychological consequences for people affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota?

“The hurricanes affected people’s sense of belonging. People sometimes have to face natural disasters or emergencies, with or without help."

"When this happens, if you still have your home, you keep a sense of belonging."

"But when you lose everything, it can feel like the end of the world."

Impact of hurricanes Eta and Lota. December 2020.

"As well as the effects on people’s emotional health, there are repercussions on their physical health. Many people affected by the hurricanes have not had their basic needs met for shelter, food, healthcare and a sense of belonging to a group."

"This weakens the immune system and makes you more prone to some diseases.”

How did last year’s COVID-19 care project at the University Sports Centre come about?

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“We started the project in May 2020 with the purpose of relieving hospitals of patients with intermediate care needs – not mild cases of COVID but not serious ones either."

"MSF opened the COVID-19 patient care unit in the facilities of the University Sports Centre, with 20 beds, handling oxygen concentrators of up to 10 liters. This was a 24/7 care unit and received patients from public hospitals with COVID-19 wards."

"MSF’s team was made up of general practitioners, nursing undergraduates, nursing assistants, a nurse supervisor, drivers, hygienists, logisticians, health promoters, call centre psychologists, a pharmacy manager and an administrative manager.”

Can you tell us about MSF’s newest COVID-19 project?

“We are in another phase of the pandemic. This time around there is more information, there are new COVID strains and the triage centres allow us to differentiate between patients with mild, intermediate or severe disease."

"Prevention will always be the best response to the pandemic"

Edgard Boquín, msf psychologist

"Psychological support enables us to recover better, but in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, getting to a hospital on time can be lifesaving."

"In three weeks, we have already transported 318 patients by ambulance. That's what MSF will be doing this year."

"After assessing what was needed, we have strengthened other areas. We are seeing more hospitals now with COVID-19 wards. We are providing support at three levels."

"The first level aims to improve pre-hospital response services for COVID-19 patients, with three ambulances that transport patients from six triage centres and the stabilisation room in the sports centre to hospitals."

MSF driver Olman Martínez disinfects equipment from one of three MSF ambulances which transport patients from triage centres to hospitals in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

"The second level aims to provide comprehensive, quality and dignified care for COVID-19 patients, including a mental health and health education strategy to provide psychological support in the COVID-19 ward of the University Sports Centre and the San Felipe Hospital."

"The third level focuses on the most vulnerable communities, sending community educators to engage with people in areas where infection rates are highest.”

In a country where the capacity and quality of hospitals have been weakened, MSF teams have found a variety of strategies to address the COVID-19 emergency and impact more people by supporting facilities for the care of infected patients.

Complementary COVID-19 patient care services could save hundreds of lives and prevent the suffering of thousands of families in Honduras.

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