“It’s one of the best days I remember,” coronavirus patient Francisco Espana said from his hospital bed, stationed on a beachfront promenade in Barcelona, Spain.
The 60-year-old has been receiving treatment for COVID-19 in an intensive care unit at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar — the Hospital of the Seas — for 52 days. As part of his treatment, a doctor and three nurses took him across the street to get some sunshine.
It’s part of a program to “humanize” ICUs, which the hospital had been experimenting with for two years before the pandemic hit Spain. “It’s important to keep in mind the emotional well-being of patients and to try to work on it in the early stages of the recovery,” Dr. Judith Marín told The Associated Press.
The strict isolation protocols forced by the virulent flare of COVID-19 in Spain since mid-March undid months of efforts to integrate ICU patients with professionals in the rest of the hospital, the doctor said. In April, the hospital was operating several additional ICU wards and expanded its normal capacity of 18 patients to 67. Visitors were banned and visits to the beach were scrapped.
Since restarting the program in early June, doctors said that even 10 minutes at the beach seems to improve a patient’s well-being. The team wants to take this anecdotal evidence further, and see whether such outdoor trips can help in the mid- and long-term recovery of COVID-19 patients.
Spain managed to bring down its infection curve with a strict three-month lockdown that ended June 21. But the country now leads Europe’s new wave of infections, with a surge that has brought the total number of cases to nearly half a million.
At least 29,400 people have died from COVID-19 in Spain.