Spain has announced a €1 billion relief package for its health system to deal with coronavirus, with a further €2.8 billion for regional authorities to help with the strain on public services.
Authorities in the country expect a spike in the number of cases this weekend, and for COVID-19 infections to peak over the next three weeks.
“Our work shifts are seven hours during the day and ten hours at night,” said Jesus Garcia Ramos of the SATSE nursing union. “This workload, along with wearing protective equipment such as goggles and high-efficiency masks is exhausting. It's become unbearable for health professionals. If they don't catch the coronavirus, they will end up being on sick leave for exhaustion.”
The coronavirus hotline has received over 20,000 calls, but many people have simply ended up at emergency centres, disrupting their normal workflow.
“If emergency departments become overwhelmed, those who really need attention, don't get it,” said Dr Esther Ramos, head of intestinal transplant rehab at the La Paz hospital in Madrid. ”It doesn't even need to be a coronavirus-related infection. If a patient arrives at the emergency room having a stroke and there are three times more people - it is difficult to establish a system to prioritize the patients effectively.”
Madrid has pledged to reinforce health services, ensure an adequate number of beds and provide protective equipment such as masks and gloves. But doctors are urging the public not to visit the hospital unless absolutely necessary.
Health authorities are hoping that closing schools, working from home and banning public gatherings will be enough to contain the spread of the virus. For now, they have ruled out locking down Madrid, but the government's response over the next two weeks is vital if the virus is to be contained.