It's not finished. It's still not clear what it's for. It also has no staff, only a coordination team. No patient has ever set foot there... But this Tuesday the president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, inaugurated the so-called Isabel Zendal Hospital, a facility built in a record time of only 100 days in one of the booming neighbourhoods of the Spanish capital, Valdebebas - next to the Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport. There is controversy aplenty: the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, has stood Ayuso up, and has sent his number two, Sílvia Calzón, to the inauguration. No member of the Madrid government mentioned Calzón in the institutional statements that closed the event. In fact, Ayuso lamented the "notable absences" but assured that the "milestone" is already a reality.
In addition, no representative of the opposition in the Assembly of Madrid apart from Vox attended the event, while Unidas Podemos joined the five health unions and platforms that were protesting outside the doors of the venue about the decision to invest in real estate instead of allocating resources to public hospitals where ICUs have been closed down and wawrds are waiting to be built: the Infanta Sofía Hospital in San Sebastián de los Reyes has 16 closed ICUs, whilst the Infanta Leonor Hospital in Vallecas district has a completely empty ward.
The complex is made up of a total of five modules which will be joined by the City of Justice, expresident Esperanza Aguirre's failed vanity project which cost more than 120 million euros to build and that until now has only been used as a morgue during the first wave of the pandemic. For the time being, only the second module, consisting of 240 beds for non-critical patients, 16 ICUs and 32 beds for intermediate care, will be operational from next week. As announced today by the Madrid government, the forecast is that during this week the first doctors will arrive - still to be clarified - and next week the first patients, who for the moment will be non-critical, with only three or four ICUs in operation in case their condition worsens.
Despite Ayuso's claim that it will allow other covid patient hospitals to be decongested, the unions assure that it will only empty the remaining centres of staff resources. They consider the president of Madrid is once again showcasing after the "miracle" of Ifema, which closed with a big party with Ayuso handing out squid sandwiches and large crowds. The president of Madrid has rejected the criticism and has affirmed that the hospital will be of great "assistance" and will allow health workers to breathe.
The inauguration was done with closed doors and journalists were not allowed to see the facilities nor ask questions in the press conference held later. During the conference, Ayuso responded to criticisms from the left, affirming that after each wave of criticism she has always ended up being proved right. First with Ifema, then with the strategy of giving away masks for free and buying antigen tests and getting them done in the pharmacies, as well as making itcompulsory to have a PCR to enter Barajas airport.
Ayuso has had to enter the compound through the back door to avoid the protestors and their cries of "Ayuso resign" and "hands up, this is a scam". Dora, a nurse, claimed that the money spent on this compound could have helped the public system. "You can't build something that's not useful," she said, holding up a banner that read "I'm not moving". The fact is that in order to start working, it would need up to 600 people that the Community of Madrid has wanted to recruit through volunteers, but so far it has only obtained the response of 111 people who were willing to move.
Journalists today were unable to follow first hand the inauguration of the controversial Isabel Zendal Hospital but the official recording offered allowed some moments of uncoordinated action among the members of the PP, who had thoroughly prepared the presentation of the crown jewel of Isabel Díaz Ayuso's strategy against the pandemic. "Are there operating rooms here?" asked PP leader Pablo Casado during the visit to the facility, when Ayuso commented that it could be used in the event of a plane crash. The president of Madrid was unable to respond. "There are treatment rooms," replied the head of the complex.