March 24 (EIRNS)—Spain’s rapidly rising coronavirus statistics are dramatic —514 people died on Monday alone, raising total deaths to 2,808 people, with diagnosed cases nearing 40,000. The scenes in and around Madrid make the breakdown of the system bitterly real.
Security forces have been called in to transport the bodies of the dead from hospitals and nursing homes in Madrid to a large ice rink which the city government commandeered as a temporary mortuary, needed to store the bodies until funeral home personnel receive the personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle them.
Hospitals and nursing homes are first in line for needed PPEs, however: Healthcare providers now make up 14% of Spain’s infected, and the percentage is rising. A video made by healthcare providers show conditions in the hospitals, where coughing patients lying, head-to-toe, on the floor of a hallway of Madrid’s Hospital Infanta Leonor de Vallecas. That hospital is one of three which are no longer taking new patients; another hospital has three times as many patients as it is equipped to handle.
Hospitals have therefore requested that nursing and retirement homes care for sick residents. Nearly 400,000 people live in Spain’s homes for the elderly; they have no respiratory ventilators, few testing kits, and almost no adequate PPEs, nor do caregivers have training in how to care for the disease. The military, sent out to disinfect the elderly homes this week, found many largely unstaffed, and some, with elderly patients lying dead in their rooms. An estimated one-quarter—25%—of the staff of these homes now have COVID, as other personnel fled out of fear of bringing the disease to their family residence.
It is not that the Spanish government is doing nothing, but it did not take action in time, like almost every government in Europe and the Americas.
The Madrid government is preparing to turn hotels into makeshift hospitals. The Army and the city’s emergency medical and civil protection corps is rapidly assembling a field hospital in the pavilions of the city’s convention center. The hospital will be staffed by 1,000 doctors, nurses and auxiliaries, and each pavilion will contain 50 beds. When respiratory ventilators arrive, it should have at least 50 ICU beds.
Discussion of retooling Spanish companies to produce medical supplies is underway, and, as elsewhere, China is stepping in to help right away. The cities of Madrid and Valencia contacted China directly to purchase material, with the acquiescence of the national government. Valencia, which is taking patients from Madrid in addition to its own patients, expects two planeloads of PPEs, beds and respiratory ventilators to arrive by March 25. The city government dubbed this “Operation Silk Road,” in honor of the 2,000-year-old history of Valencia, from the ancient Silk Road to today’s New Silk Road.