Health, Europe

In Spain, emergency rooms overflow, patients wait days to be admitted

Lack of healthcare resources combined with post-holiday spike in illness create ‘perfect storm for collapse,’ says official

Alyssa McMurtry  | 11.01.2023 - Update : 11.01.2023
In Spain, emergency rooms overflow, patients wait days to be admitted


The emergency rooms of dozens of hospitals in Spain are overflowing on Wednesday, with patients in different cities having to wait days to be admitted to hospital.

Health Minister Carolina Darias attributed the chaos to the “post-pandemic situation” and called on regional governments to turn to “dialogue” with healthcare staff to solve ongoing strikes and avoid those that threaten to start.

According to local broadcaster TVE, the situation is particularly bad in hospitals in Madrid, Toledo, Castile and Leon, Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia.

“We have a chronic deficit of hospital beds ... But now, with the spike of respiratory infections, we’re starting the day with up to 110 patients that cannot get a bed for days,” a doctor, holding back tears, told media outside the La Paz hospital in Madrid.

“We are asking for help for our patients. They are in deplorable, inhumane conditions. We are not asking for better salaries, we are asking for safety and dignity for our patients,” she added.

Emergency room doctors in Hospital Infanta Sofia in Madrid are on the verge of calling a strike over “unsustainable” conditions and a “collapsed” system.

“There are four or five of us working, but there should be at least eight of us,” Maria Jesus Escobar, an emergency physician at Infanta Sofia, told TVE.

Pascual Pinera, vice president of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (SEMES), said the lack of personnel across the healthcare system combined with a post-holiday spike in illness has created “the perfect storm for collapse.”

He said the situation has been on the horizon “for years” and only threatens to worsen. That is because Spain’s population is getting older, “one-third of Spanish doctors will retire in the next 10 years,” and there are not enough doctors in the pipeline to replace them, he said.

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