Coronavirus
The idea for the 'covitario' occurred to Martha Alicia Torres last year when she saw that city workers without social security were being turned away from the public hospitals. The idea for the 'covitario' occurred to Martha Alicia Torres last year when she saw that city workers without social security were being turned away from the public hospitals.

Makeshift hospital offers hope to people of limited means

About 5,000 patients have sought treatment at the covitario

In Culiacán, Sinaloa, a makeshift hospital is offering Covid-19 patients oxygen and medical treatment.

Head of municipal health, Martha Alicia Torres, runs the covitario, which still has a dirt floor and no roof.

Torres, who wears three face masks, said the idea was born of necessity. “The idea came up a year ago when local government workers who didn’t have social security were being turned away from public hospitals and didn’t know how to take care of themselves … Months later we started receiving people without any means and that’s when the consultations rose to 90 per day.” she said.

She estimates about 5,000 patients have passed the covitario, arriving as early as 4:00 a.m. to ensure they get an appointment.

However, the hospital is running on lean resources, Torres said. “There are so many patients who attend the covitario that there is not enough medicine. Today is when you need the help of the politicians who were promising everything in the campaign … Where else are people going to go if the hospitals in Culiacán are full?” she said.

Dr. Torres of Culiacán's community Covid hospital.
Dr. Torres of Culiacán’s community Covid hospital.

The community hospital survives by the support of other medical professionals, like nurse Rocío Gastelum, who helps out on her days off at the General Hospital. Gastelum said she owed a debt to Torres. “Two of my relatives got sick and Dr. Torres saved them, that’s why I’m here,” she said.

Other volunteers that collect Covid-19 medicines in the city center have also been central to the operation. Activist Martha Camacho said she wanted to give back. “I found out about the covitario because a daughter contracted Covid-19 and that’s where she received all the help to recover.”

Gabriel, 27, is a current patient at the covitario after he couldn’t get treatment in a public hospital, and maintains he has been well assisted by Torres and company. “I have been ill for seven days and I have not stopped attending my appointments with Dr. Torres,” he said.

Sinaloa is one of seven states that are red on the coronavirus stoplight map, according to federal data.

It has been the fifth worst state in terms of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants over the course of the pandemic.

With reports from Milenio

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