MADRID – With much fanfare, the Enfermera Isabel Zendal pandemic hospital was opened in Madrid in December 2020. More than two years later, the hospital has 1,000 beds and 91 patients after an investment of €170 million. That´s three times what was budgeted.
The hospital was intended to relieve the pressure on regular care during pandemics and flu waves. Furthermore, it was Europe’s first hospital to specialise in Covid-19 and other pandemics. However, instead of housing hundreds of patients, two of the three pavilions are now used as storage space. The hospital was the hobbyhorse of the region president Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Instead of something to be proud of, it has now become a ghost hospital.
Journalists from El Público newspaper visited and found they could walk right in. They were not stopped anywhere. They could easily walk into the patient rooms in pavilions 1 and 2 and take photographs. These now appear to be storage areas for beds, chairs and tables.
Only one of the three parts that make up the building houses patients. While there is room for 1,000 patients, only 91 have now been admitted. The third pavilion actually consists only of corridors and panels.
92% of the planned beds are empty
Health Minister Escudero confirmed this Thursday that Zendal currently has 86 patients admitted to the Functional Rehabilitation Unit (URF), in addition to another five coming from the emergency departments of other hospitals. This means that almost 92% of the planned beds are empty, not assembled or even disassembled.
There are activities only in Pavilion 1. This section is divided into zones that can accommodate 18 patients each. Five of those zones are open. Patients with respiratory diseases are treated in one of those zones.
The pandemic hospital now looks more like a large industrial warehouse than a medical emergency hospital. Furthermore, it doesn’t even have its own health team. Officially, 200 professionals work there, of which 27 are volunteers from other health centres and the rest are under contract. Most of these are from La Paz University Hospital.
Empty pavilions 2 and 3
During the walk of the journalists from El Público through the second pavilion, they encountered a gloomy image. Disassembled and stacked beds predominate. There were no direct signs that they would be occupied by patients in the short term. Since July 9 last year, this section has been closed, as confirmed by the CCOO delegate in Zendal, Ismael de la Torre.
Ukrainian refugees and vaccination point
The health services at the hospital were established to treat those affected by covid-19 during the pandemic. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, now a year ago, it even welcomed Ukrainian refugees. It was also used as a vaccination point for covid and monkeypox.
But right now, as El Público shows readers with photos, it’s clear. There is hardly any furniture. Just a few chairs against a wall. In the main room, a small room has been set up to vaccinate patients. According to hospital sources, an average of 100 doses are administered per day.
The newspaper El Diario wrote yesterday that it costs the region €2 million a year to maintain the hospital. This is evident from a new contract that the regional Ministry of Health has concluded for the year. In 2022, the regional government spent more than €15 million on maintenance, security, laundry services, cleaning and disinfection of the hospital. A large part of these contracts was not even publicly tendered but simply designated. And that amount, despite the fact that on average only 30 patients were treated per week.