Working for the Greater Good: UAC-CP Graduate Responds to COVID-19

Nursing graduate Ernesto Arinez speaks to a national news outlet
about the pandemic at German Busch Hospital in May 2020.

Ernesto Arinez has overcome a lot of obstacles in life, but he says his current fight for quality health care is one of the most challenging — both personally and professionally.

The 2007 UAC-CP Nursing graduate recently left his beloved position as chief nurse of the ICU unit at German Busch Hospital in Trinidad, Bolivia, to accept an appointment by the hospital’s administration to serve as the director of human resources. It wasn’t a career move Ernesto was looking to make, but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t leave him with much of a choice.“Nobody wanted the job,” he explained.

As COVID-19 rapidly spread in late March and the northeastern Bolivian Department of Beni became a hotspot with the highest per capita mortality rate in the world, administrators at the top tier public hospital abandoned their jobs for fear of contracting COVID-19. When the director of the hospital saw Ernesto’s background in nursing, complemented by his postgraduate degree in hospital administration, Ernesto was asked to step into the role.

Ernesto accepted the job, but not because he wanted a promotion. His vocation is to attend to patients in need of critical care, but Ernesto knew his colleagues depended on him. With the Bolivian health care system collapsing, he felt called to represent the dedicated team of doctors and nurses attending to patients — often without regular paychecks from the government — as space and equipment allowed.

Since filling the position in May just one month after he, his wife Maritza Choque (UAC-CP Nursing 2006) and their two daughters recovered from COVID-19, Ernesto has dedicated most of his time to ensuring that hospi-
tal staff have safe working conditions, access to personal protection equipment, as well as fair regularly paid wages and benefits. He is now a well-respected advocate for those who treat patients.

Once the pandemic crisis passes, Ernesto looks forward to returning to his work as an ICU nurse. “I love what I do,” said the Carmen Pampa native, who was the first in his family to graduate from college. “I am the nurse most proud of my profession. Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t trade my work for anything.”

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