Pressure on health services intensifies as lack of kit is blamed

Beds a safe distance apart await patients at the IFEMA centre.
Beds a safe distance apart await patients at the IFEMA centre. / REUTERS
  • Earlier this week, 13 per cent of coronavirus cases were healthcare workers, leading to staff anger and union protests

The government said on Wednesday that it had bought 432 million euros of protective and healthcare equipment in a massive order from China. The statement came in response to calls from healthcare and emergency workers, and their unions, for urgent help as supplies in some areas were either running out or non-existent.

Earlier this week, it was announced that 13 per cent of coronavirus cases were healthcare workers, and that many key staff were forced to stay at home. This was putting increasing pressure on the health service, especially in hardest-hit areas such as Madrid, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Rioja and Castilla-La Mancha.

The director of the government's health emergency centre, Fernando Simón, admitted at the daily news conference that the lack of personal protection equipment was one of the reasons the number of health workers infected was growing.

Police representatives also voiced their concern this week after the Guardia Civil said all its officers were being provided with gloves and masks. Officers across forces said this wasn't the case, claiming there were often not enough to go around and they were single use.

On Wednesday, a court in Madrid gave the regional health authority 24 hours to give health workers appropriate protective clothing after a union complaint. A similar, national level complaint against the government's Health ministry was however rejected by the Supreme Court.

In Madrid, the area worst affected by the pandemic, part of the large IFEMA exhibition centre was converted into a 1,400- bed hospital with the possibility to increase to 5,000. Volunteers were being sought to help staff it.

Meanwhile, there was confusion in the capital over funeral provisions through lack of safety material, with the municipal burial service stopping for a couple of days for coronavirus cases and the council preparing the city's ice arena as a possible temporary overflow morgue.

Problem testing kits

On Thursday more confusion broke out after a batch of Chinese-made much-needed rapid test kits being used appeared not to work according to medical scientists. China also entered the argument by saying the provider that sent them wasn't one of its licensed export suppliers. It also added that Spain's new, multi-million order of supplies had not left China yet.

At its daily press conference, the government stressed that it was doing up to 20,000 rapid tests a day and that millions more were due to arrive.