MADRID – Spanish regions warn of staff shortages as infections continue to increase. Infected workers have to stay at home, increasing the pressure on care centres.
Spain is struggling with the sixth corona wave. However, this has not increased the pressure on health care due to an increasing number of hospital admissions, but more so due to a large dropout of infected staff who have to isolate at home for 7 days. The high infectivity of the Omicron strain is the cause of the alarming staff shortages.
The number of infections continued to rise across the country last week, except in the regions of Andalucia and La Rioja, which showed a declining trend. But the 14-day cumulative incidence for Spain as a whole rose by 140 points to 2,574 cases per 100,000 people.
Fastest-spreading virus in history
This new wave of the coronavirus, fueled by a variant that has already been described as the fastest-spreading virus in history, is beginning to strain not only Spain’s healthcare system but other essential services, including the police, fire brigade, and public transport. Here, many employees have been forced to stay at home because of infections or close contact with an infected person.
Andalucia: 7.000 positive nurses
In Andalucia, a lack of workers is putting extra pressure on hospitals and health centres. The healthcare workers union Satse estimates there are currently 7,000 nurses that tested positive. This concerns approximately 30% of the 20,000 healthcare professionals with contracts.
In addition, the Andalucian government recently fired 8,000 of the 20,000 health workers hired as reinforcements during the pandemic.
Staff shortages in Catalonia and Madrid
According to the Catalan Ministry of Health, there are 2,500 health workers in Catalonia on sick leave. That is more than double the number during the fifth wave. Whereas, in Madrid, a lack of updated figures makes it difficult to know what the current situation is. However, according to data as of December 27, out of a total of 24,213 public health workers, 1,377 were on sick leave due to Covid. That is around 5% of the total.
In the Basque Country, the problem with the number of doctors on sick leave is ‘very relevant’, according to the Medical Union. The region of Valencia also suffers from a shortage of nurses. Therefore, unions here are arguing to urgently hire new, permanent staff. And if the regional Ministry of Health delivers on its promise, it will hire 6,000 new health workers this year.
Pharmacists Valencia help with taking tests
Valencia’s president Ximo Puig announced on Wednesday that he would involve pharmacies in administering antigen tests. This should facilitate the reporting of positive cases. In this way, the region hopes to get a better picture of the real scale of the transmission of the coronavirus. This is a voluntary initiative aimed at easing the pressure on primary health care. It is now inundated with requests for tests.