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Criticism as Madrid opens €100 million hospital for COVID-19 patients

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By Euronews with AP
An apparatus sits covered with plastic in the empty Isabel Zendal new hospital during the official opening in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.
An apparatus sits covered with plastic in the empty Isabel Zendal new hospital during the official opening in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.   -   Copyright  Paul White/AP Photo
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Spanish authorities opened a €100 million hospital in Madrid on Tuesday for COVID-19 patients.

The 1,000-bed emergency hospital has been criticised by health workers unions who say the money should have gone into the existing public health system that has suffered cuts.

The 80,000 square-metre facility opened with just one of its four wings, containing 240 beds.

The regional government so far has only enlisted as volunteers about one-sixth of the workers needed.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional president in Madrid, said the hospital is the first of its kind in Europe and that it will help alleviate pressure in other public hospitals by focussing on COVID-19 patients.

Critics say the beds are not ready to receive patients and the project is unnecessary as hospitalisations decrease in Spain.

“I’m sorry for the criticism. We are saving lives,” Díaz Ayuso said. She said that it would assure visitors as it is close to the airport. "A great public hospital cannot be bad news for anyone.”

Diaz Ayuso has been a vocal critic of the national government's preventative measures to stop the address the spread of COVID-19 and has favoured restrictions that preserve economic activity.

Spain's health minister, Salvador Illa, declined an invitation to attend saying he was already busy. No left-wing national or regional politician attended Tuesday's ceremony.

The Madrid region's 14-day infection rate has dropped from 500-plus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in October to 236 on Monday, which is below the national average.

Spain has recorded 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 and over 45,000 deaths due to the virus.