Spain // Disastrous health management in Madrid worsens pandemic~ 4 min

By Víctor Boaventura

The region of Madrid has 17 166 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 2090 deaths, a mortality rate of 12.2%, well above normal. There are many factors which can be pointed out to explain the uncontrolled pandemic in this community. But in a crisis like this, the results of cuts and privatization policies by successive governments of the Community of Madrid become even more obvious.

In the last few days, unions and social movements have been criticizing the disastrous management of the current Community government and the privatization policy followed by the last few governments.

“We are living in a war situation” says one of the patients at the Severo Ochoa University Hospital (Leganés), after waiting for the results of the coronavirus test for 3 days, sitting in a plastic chair and surrounded by 200 other patients.

Madrid hospitals are bursting at the seams while ⅔ of private hospital beds are empty. This was after the Spanish government announced on the 15th that private hospital resources would be at the service of all autonomous communities and the National Health Service.

At the same time, some private hospitals took the opportunity to put workers on forced vacations to save costs.

Health professionals working without protection

The Asociación Defensor del Paciente, the Coordinadora Anti – Privatización de la Sanidad de Madrid (CAS Madrid) and the Asambleario de Sanidad de Madrid (SAS Madrid) had filed a complaint on March 19 to he Fiscalía Superior de la Comunidad de Madrid where they denounced the lack of means of individual protection.

Yesterday, the Madrid Labor Inspectorate demanded that the General Directorate of Human Resources and Labor Relations of the Madrid Health Service (SERMAS) immediately adopt measures with which “it can guarantee the right to health of primary care health professionals.”

Empty health centers – A huge mistake

Professionals and social movements are criticizing the Community of Madrid for mobilizing professionals from health centers for the new field hospital installed at IFEMA.

According to the Platform of Health Centers, composed of doctors and health professionals of Madrid, this would be a major mistake in the fight against the pandemic. Emptying health centers of primary care professionals would lead to an avalanche of patients at central hospitals. As well as a dismantling the work carried out between health centers and patients.

Health centers serve as a first line of defense against the pandemic. A family doctor can call his patients, take care of their sick leaves, advise and reassure them. All of these services will be eliminated with the displacement of professionals to IFEMA, according to Dr. Maribel Giráldez of CS Nuestra Señora de Fátima, from the Carabanchel neighbourhood.

In addition to the dismantling of primary care, there is an imminent closure of 19 pediatric emergency services to concentrate them only at Niño Jesús Children’s Hospital and La Paz Hospital.

Consequences of privatization and health cuts in Madrid

According to data from the Madrilenian Health Service, between 2010 and 2018, health services in the region lost around 3300 professionals, despite the fact that the population entitled to public health services in the Community of Madrid grew by almost 500 000 people during the same period.

According to the national catalog of hospitals, Madrid has 33 public and 50 private hospitals. One of the most important Popular Party policies in the region’s government since 2010 has been the constant privatization of its hospital centers. They call this process giving “free choice” to patients, but it only serves to fill the pockets of the companies that manage them. Of the 33 public hospitals, 5 are privately managed and, as has been shown, their treatments are up to 6 times more expensive for public coffers.

These private hospitals, before the Spanish state’s civil requisition, were directing all cases of coronavirus to public hospitals. Madrid has more hospitals but has seen a decrease of 1200 beds between 2011 and 2018.

Cleaning and maintenance

The health problem does not only affect health professionals. The cleaning and maintenance protocols of most public hospitals are outsourced to large multinationals.

During the last major re-privatization of cleaning services in Madrid, the company that won the cleaning contract for 7 Madrid hospitals was Ferrovial. Several unions criticized the criteria that was used by the Consejería de Sanidad: 80% for economic reasons, 20% for disinfection, laundry and rat extermination.

The result: sheets with stains of urine and mold, pajamas for patients were dirty and full of holes, towels in poor condition, etc… The health personnel of Madrid reported last June that the laundry service of the Madrid Health Service does not meet minimum quality standards and does not provide the material they need.

The architect of the privatization of health in Madrid is leading the management of the pandemic crisis

The Community of Madrid, chaired by Isabel Díaz Ayuso (PP), sought external advice to manage the coronavirus crisis and turned to the former director general of hospitals and architect of the privatization of health in Madrid, Antonio Burgueño.

Burgueño was at the origin of the privatization model of public hospital assistance in the Spanish State.

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