The scandal in Madrid over denial of hospital access to residents of care homes for the elderly at the height of the COVID-19 crisis has deepened, with the surfacing of a video showing a hospital administrator clearly telling medical staff that care-home residents must be denied treatment on instructions of the Madrid community’s regional Health Ministry.
The video was published Thursday by the daily El País and El Diario newspapers and clips were televised on Canal 1’s Los Desayunos de TVE national morning news program. It shows an administrator at Madrid’s Parla hospital telling staff that they were operating under disaster “triage” conditions, that elderly residents of care homes with COVID-19 symptoms would no longer be treated by the UCI intensive care units and therefore should not be admitted to hospital.
The criteria for admissions mandated by the Madrid community’s Health Ministry would forthwith be based “not on the gravity” of a patient’s health condition, the administrator says, but on an admitting physician’s on-the-spot judgment of “the number of recuperable years” that a patient could be expected to live after treatment.
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“We are limiting treatment to ‘recuperable’ patients. The elderly from care homes are now being denied treatment,” said the administrator, whose voice is disguised and face blurred for identity concealment in the El País version of the video, but appears to be a female administrator in the El Diario version. “If they’re undergoing antibiotic treatment for a bacterial infection and they’re also a COVID patient, tough luck, okay?”
Madrid regional President Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Partido Popular denied the authenticity of the video, calling it “fake news” and claiming it was a hospital training video about disaster triage in which the administrator was speaking about hypothetical situations.
The Madrid region alone accounts for nearly 31 percent of the total 19,529 coronavirus-related deaths among residents of care homes for the elderly occurring throughout Spain’s 17 regional autonomous communities, according to figures provided by the regional communities and compiled by Spain’s national Health Ministry.
According to those figures, the 5,981 residents of Madrid’s elderly care-home facilities who died of the COVID-19 disease or symptoms compatible with coronavirus account for nearly 7 of every 10 deaths (68.82 percent) of the total 8,961 coronavirus-related fatalities in the Madrid region during the pandemic.
The scandal over the reported denial of hospital access to care-home residents at the height of the crisis has grown dramatically in recent days, with revelations in the Spanish press that:
► At least four e-mails sent by a high-ranking official of the Madrid region Ministry of Health instructing hospitals to deny elderly residents of care homes access were intentional, not simply drafts sent by mistake, as claimed by regional President Díaz Ayuso;
► Police reports show that at least five Madrid care homes where elderly residents were dying of COVID-19 at an alarming rate had requested help from the Community of Madrid without receiving any response whatsoever; and,
► Care home residents who had private insurance were allowed to be transferred by ambulance to Madrid hospitals, while those who had no private insurance were not.
Meanwhile, a lower court judge in Madrid has transferred to Spain’s Supreme Court a lawsuit alleging negligent homicide filed by relatives of the deceased in care homes against Díaz Ayuso, Madrid regional Health Minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero and regional Justice Minister Enrique López.
Upon preliminary investigation, the lower court judge determined there may be sufficient evidence to warrant a trial, but because elected politicians enjoy immunity from prosecution by lower courts in Spain the judge sent the case for consideration to the Supreme Court, where justices have yet to determine whether the lawsuit will proceed.
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