A hotel for healthcare workers in Girona

Many medical professionals living with at-risk people are lodging at Hotel Europa during the coronavirus crisis

A worker at the Hotel Europa cleans the coffee machine, as has become part of the routine while welcoming healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic (by Marina López)
A worker at the Hotel Europa cleans the coffee machine, as has become part of the routine while welcoming healthcare professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic (by Marina López) / ACN

ACN | Girona

May 15, 2020 12:19 PM

The Hotel Europa in Girona is one hotel that has stayed open during the state of alarm. But rather than tourists, healthcare professionals are lodged there as they work on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, many of whom live with at-risk people and thus have to avoid going home. 

The protocol to follow is strict, involving constant disinfection and hand washing. When the rooms are cleaned, the bedding is directly quarantined. 

But the hotel has also become a haven and meeting place for those who, day after day, tackle the Covid-19 crisis face on. “Here you can vent and release yourself a little bit,” says Ariadna Soler, a nursing assistant. 

Half a year ago, her father had a lung transplant and returned home a couple of months ago. The Covid-19 pandemic began while he was in the middle of his recovery.

“We both lived with a lot of anguish, because anything could make it worse very quickly,” Ariadna admits. “We tried not to coincide, but when you live in the same house it’s complicated,” she admits. 

She chose to go to an apartment and entered it on March 26, staying there for a month before she was told to leave “because it was too expensive." She’s been staying at the Europa Hotel ever since.

Safety distances kept

Hotel Europa is now at 100% occupancy, especially after tourist apartments have not been open to the healthcare workers, which some have criticized. In the hotels, however, there is uncertainty about when the Catalan government will pay the expenses.

During meal times, disposable cutlery and glasses are used and everything on the buffet is packaged. The healthcare workers eat separately, keeping safety distances between one another. Every time someone leaves the area, both their table and the chair are disinfected.

"Some people ask us how we had the courage to accept the proposal [to stay open], but from the first moment we were clear; [the healthcare workers] is a group that fights for us and they need us," explains the owner of the hotel, Josep Carreras, in an interview with ACN.

Of course, the protocols to ensure security measures are strict. "They have made us change our way of working in a remarkable way; but now we have been applying them for five weeks and they are part of our routine," says Carreras.

The hotel owner emphasizes too that the first to set an example of cleanliness are the health professionals themselves. “No one is more aware than them, and we will never meet such clean customers,” says the owner of Europe. 

"This is not over"

Joel Margalef is one of the guests staying at the hotel during the public health crisis. Margalef is 20 years old, from Lloret de Mar, and works as a nursing assistant in the pediatric ICU of the Josep Trueta Hospital in Girona. 

He lives with his mother and explains that the first few days of confinement were very difficult because his grandmother, 76, also went to live with them. 

“I was going home with a mask and gloves on and didn’t want us to coincide,” he says about his grandmother, who is aware she is in a risky group.

He asked for alternative accommodation and was given an apartment, but a week ago he was told he had to leave because "they needed to open up." Thanks to his hospital colleagues, he found a room in the Hotel Europa, where he entered on Monday.

Margalef explains that he is grateful to have been able to stay in an apartment, but also admits that he was disappointed. “I felt like they had [let me stay there] to look good for a while, because this is not over,” he comments, referring to the pandemic. 

Personally, he admits there are difficult moments. "I haven't been home in a month and a half; when you're alone, your head turns and you try not to think about it because otherwise it's very hard," he says.