Spanish hospitals are being forced to make agonizing life-or-death decisions about who gets admitted as coronavirus cases overwhelm the country’s health care system, according to a report.
In the emergency room at one of Madrid’s biggest hospitals, Daniel Bernabeu signed the death certificate for one patient and immediately turned to help another who was choking.
People are dying in waiting rooms before they can even be admitted as the coronavirus pandemic overpowers medical staff. With some funeral services halted in the Spanish capital and no space left in the morgues, corpses are being stored at the main ice rink.
Dr. Daniel Bernabeu, who works at Madrid’s La Paz hospital, said new guidelines encourage doctors to prioritize giving rooms to younger patients instead of older ones, Bloomberg reported.
“That grandpa, in any other situation, would have had a chance,” Bernabeu told the outlet. “But there’s so many of them, all dying at the same time.”
In addition, the requirements for getting access to intensive care are also getting stricter — with rooms also held for younger patients, whose lungs tend to collapse faster, the outlet reported.
“We are completely overwhelmed,” Bernabeu said.
Disturbing footage has already emerged from Spain’s hospitals of coronavirus patients sprawled out over the floor as they wait for rooms.
As Covid-19 sweeps the continent, the focus is turning to Spain with dire warnings for parts of Europe such as the U.K. that only recently have taken more comprehensive action. The number of fatalities in the country of 47 million people is now rising faster than it did in China, where the virus first emerged, and faster than in Italy, where the disease took hold this month.
Spanish authorities reported another 738 people had lost their lives, making it the deadliest hotspot on Wednesday while elsewhere countries unveiled more measures to deal with the economic carnage.
Some 4,000 medical workers have been infected, the government said on Monday, about 12% of the total. That compares with 8% in Italy and 4% in China. A nurses’ union in the Basque region is blaming the shortages for the death of a 52-year-old member.
The hope is that stricter efforts to keep people at home will start to bear fruit. Italy recorded marginally fewer new cases of the virus on Wednesday after three weeks of lockdown.
Talk among business leaders grappling with the economy in freefall is that the lockdown could last up to eight weeks, rather than the four the government has mandated so far, according to one Spanish official, who asked not to be identified by name.
Unemployment, Spain’s perennial weakness, is set to spike again with the summer tourist season looking increasingly like a writeoff after record revenues in recent years. But a survey by the state pollster released on Wednesday showed that 65% of respondents backed the harsh restrictions.