More doubts than certainties about the new hospital in Madrid

Madrid President opens hospital under criticism from Spanish government and opposition

The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the mayor of the city, José Luis Martínez Almeida, and the president of the PP, Pablo Casado, inaugurated this Tuesday the Isabel Zendal Hospital, a sanitary infrastructure built in record time but mired in uncertainty. To begin with, the hospital is not yet finished (workers could be seen yesterday) yet the hospital is scheduled to start operating next week, even if only at a third of its capacity. This is because only a hundred of the 600 professionals estimated to be needed to make it fully operational will be assigned to it. So, at the moment, there will only be 240 extra beds in the Madrid health system, 16 ICU beds and 32 intermediate care beds. Very little for the more than €100m it has cost.

Moreover, at this point it is not known where these professionals will come from or what criteria will be used to refer patients. The head of Madrid's Department of Health evaded the question, saying that it would be decided "according to the needs of the moment". It does not seem, therefore, that the hospital responds to precise planning of the fight against the pandemic. All this suggests that this is a piece of Ayuso propaganda. The most compromising moment of the inauguration was when Casado himself asked Ayuso if the hospital had operating theatres and, in response to the doubts of the Madrid president, the head of the complex clarified that what there were were treatment rooms.

On paper, this is an infrastructure specialised in the treatment of pandemics, but the opposition criticises that what has been inaugurated is only a building, since without personnel it is useless. It is especially significant that the Spanish Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, declined to participate in the inauguration, a clear sign that the Sánchez government does not share the idea of hastily building a new hospital when there are ICU wards that are not operational precisely because of lack of personnel. And if this pandemic has proven anything, it is that what is lacking is personnel and not so much spaces or beds, because in a very short time hotels or other facilities can be adapted to attend to the sick.

In fact, this was the fundamental criticism made by the hundred or so people who protested outside against the opening, most of them health professionals who denounced the precarious conditions they work in. Time will tell whether Ayuso or her critics, who argue that this money would have had a more important effect on the fight against the pandemic if it had been spent, for example, on reinforcing primary care, are right.

What is regrettable is that the opening of a hospital should become a partisan event, which is what happened on Monday, and another example of the lack of institutional collaboration between the Madrid region - which has now become the jewel in the crown of the right with its tax reduction policies - and the Spanish government. Surely Europe must have taken good note of how money is spent in some parts of Spain.