Chilean doctor Sebastian Ugarte (1st L, front) takes a group photo with colleagues at the Intensive Care Unit of the INDISA Clinic in Santiago, Chile, June 11, 2020. Chilean doctor Sebastian Ugarte, 61, has worked in the medical field for 27 years. Now he has become a familiar face to Chileans, as he makes rounds of news shows to discuss the outbreak of COVID-19 and ways to combat it. (INDISA Clinic of Chile/Handout via Xinhua)
by Cristobal Chavez Bravo
SANTIAGO, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Chilean doctor Sebastian Ugarte, 61, has worked in the medical field for 27 years. Now he has become a familiar face to Chileans, as he makes rounds of news shows to discuss the outbreak of COVID-19 and ways to combat it.
His realistic but ultimately hopeful attitude towards the epidemic, which has infected 184,449 people and claimed 3,383 lives in Chile by Tuesday, has also made him a welcome presence in the media.
The doctor is spreading hope amid the bleak landscape of the pandemic and its mounting count.
"I have to tell the truth, but always tell the truth, no matter how hard it is, with a grain of hope, because in the end we are going to overcome this epidemic," said Ugarte, who heads the Intensive Care Unit of the INDISA Clinic in the capital city of Santiago.
In addition to his positive message, his charismatic personality and ability to explain complex issues clearly have won him the affection of Chileans, as their posts on social networks show.
The outbreak has impacted him, too, preventing him from seeing his mother and three children, Ugarte told Xinhua.
"I don't go to see them so I don't infect them ... but receiving these messages of affection is positive," he said, referring to the praise he has received from grateful Chileans.
"It's comforting, because the role of doctors and healthcare workers has been to accompany the sick and even risk their own health," said Ugarte.
Every morning, he wakes up at 5 a.m. to read the latest scientific and medical news about the virus before arriving at the clinic at 7 a.m. INDISA is currently treating 243 COVID-19 patients.
At 10 a.m., he heads to a local television station to talk about the epidemic, and returns to the clinic at 1 p.m. to continue his medical rounds.
The demand for medical professionals is so high that "we have incorporated even pediatric doctors. They are now treating adults," he said.
"Every day we see very critical patients ... and we do what we can to cure them. Sometimes it is very difficult, because you can treat a sick person for 40 days and after 40 days you see the patient is still not recovering," said Ugarte.
Chilean healthcare workers have also fallen victim to the virus, including some of his colleagues.
"I hope that doesn't happen to me, but nobody is immune," said Ugarte.
Chile's outbreak is gradually climbing towards a peak, he believes.
"The number of cases (of infection) continues to be quite high, over 4,000 to 5,000 a day, the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, it hasn't yet. Probably in two to three more weeks we will be in the worst of it in Chile and we have to be prepared for that," said Ugarte.
Still, he hopes a vaccine or other effective treatment would soon emerge.
"We hope that from among all the projects that are underway (to develop a cure) one of them will succeed," he said.