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Madrid hospitals begin to overflow amid COVID-19 surge

Capital region’s health services are buckling under pressure of constant rise in cases

Alyssa McMurtry   | 17.09.2020
Madrid hospitals begin to overflow amid COVID-19 surge FILE PHOTO

OVIEDO, Spain

Hospitals in Madrid are warning of major disruptions due to rise in COVID-19 infections, as the Spanish Health Ministry reported nearly 11,300 new daily coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Contagion continues to grow, especially in Madrid, which has seen more than one-third of the 122,000 infections diagnosed in Spain over the last two weeks.

Likewise, COVID-19 deaths continue to increase, with the ministry reporting more than 150 new fatalities for the third day in a row – numbers unseen since early May.

While the Health Ministry reported that 21% of Madrid’s hospital capacity is now occupied by COVID-19 patients, hospitals in the worst-affected areas of the capital are coming under more severe pressure.

The Infanta Leonor Hospital, south of Spain’s capital city, said that more than half of its total beds are dedicated to COVID-19 patients, while 100% of beds in its intensive care unit (ICU) are full.

In a letter to Madrid government officials, hospital staff said patients are being admitted at an “alarming” rate and the “constant pressure” is forcing doctors to delay treatment of other patients and abandon their specialties to focus on viral patients.

The ICU of the Infanta Sofia Hospital, north of Madrid, is also completely full, and COVID-19 patients are being transferred into operating theaters. There too, many scheduled surgeries are being postponed.

Primary care services in Madrid were the first to warn of unbearable pressure. Family doctors are responsible for caring for at-home COVID-19 patients amongst others, as well as tracing contacts.

Long lines are common scenes outside medical clinics in Madrid, and other parts of Spain, where patients may have to wait hours to even set up an appointment that could not be for weeks.

That situation is driving more non-urgent patients to emergency services, which the spokesperson for a medical doctors’ union in Madrid this week described as “on the brink of saturation.”

Nationwide, Spain’s testing program is increasingly overwhelmed with over 13% of all PCR tests coming back positive. In Madrid, the positivity rate now sits at 22.3%.

The Madrid government is expected to announce more measures on Friday in the hopes of reducing the levels of contagion, though local officials today ruled out “confinements.”

Despite one of the worst levels of contagion in the world, Spain remains under relatively relaxed conditions with evermore people returning to offices and schools.

On Wednesday, a teachers’ union reported that at least 117 schools have had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

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