Last year, the Internal Medicine Service of Cabuenes University Hospital treated nearly four thousand patients in hospital and another nine thousand in outpatient consultations. It is the service with the highest burden of care, the service with the highest number of medical admissions, but it is also the 'most popular'.
What does an internist do? In light of all that the specialty covers, the answer could be that an internist is similar to a family physician within a hospital because in this clinical service the most common diseases are treated, from heart failure to pneumonia, chronic bronchopathy, and urinary tract infections. Kidney problems, skin problems… He has a comprehensive view of the patient.
A patient suffering from multiple diseases. And at an advanced age. Therefore, in a region like Asturias, with an increasingly aging population, the workload of the internal medicine service does not stop growing year after year. Disease management and the development of treatments also influence this exponential growth in the number of patients being treated. “The service has always had the most medical income in the hospital, but now it is much more than that,” says Julio Noval, a member of the service from his years as a resident physician.
To give a recent example. Last Christmas, at the height of the respiratory virus outbreak, Internal Medicine received nearly two hundred patients in Cabuenes. This is approximately half of the hospital's available beds. “We had patients on all floors, from zero to eight,” while internal medicine theoretically only occupies an even-fifth floor and an even-odd seventh floor. Because “all winters are bad, but this year was worse. “We had seventy admissions on weekends,” Noval points out. With the exception of the pandemic years, last Christmas was without a doubt the busiest period. This internist said it was affected by laxity in Mask use and the vaccination rate have not reached expected levels. “It's a mistake,” he laments, because both factors reduce the likelihood of hospitalizations and deaths.
Noval is one of 24 deputies in the service headed by Dr. María Jesús Barragán, since the retirement of Joaquín Maurice de la Tassa in 2022. They also have ten residents – two per MIR per year – a number that will likely rise from 2025 with three residents per year.
Internal medicine has specific departments such as the autoimmune diseases unit, the infectious diseases unit, and the heart failure unit. It also cooperates with the Trauma Service of the Department of Orthopedics, for the clinical monitoring of patients undergoing surgery for hip fractures, which helps to avoid possible medical complications and reduce hospitalization times. Also part of their work are cross-consultations with surgical services at Cabueñes Hospital and collaborative virtual consultations with primary care physicians.
Regarding hospitalization, the average stay is six days, which is “very good.” On the other hand, the waiting list for external consultations is “a month and a half or two months,” with priority given to the reasons for consultation that require it. Internal Medicine includes four outpatient clinics: two for general internal medicine, one for infectious diseases, and a fourth for autoimmune diseases.
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