Summer season brings chaos to hospitals

WITH the arrival of the summer comes the increased burden on the health care system along the Costas. Traditionally it is a time for recruiting extra staff to help cope with the increased pressure put on facilities by the greatly expanded population in these areas during the high season: not so this year.

The accepted date for hiring of health care professionals on a temporary contract to cover the high demand is July 1. However, the Valencia regional government has now announced that it is postponing this, until an as yet unspecified time. Due to the economic crisis in the Valencia government, a stop has been put on recruiting any extra staff for hospitals. “Emergencies are already saturated. It’s going to be a hard summer.” Said a source at the Marina Baixa hospital in Villajoyosa.

The usual influx of locums to cover vacationing resident physicians along the Costas has not materialised, and the perennial medical staff have had their work rotas increased, rather than decreased, to cover the extra demand, without fresh back up in the form of part time seasonal staff.

Some sources say that there are several emergency departments that are on the verge of collapse, especially in the high density tourist areas. In the Marina Baixa area, it is estimated that demand on its hospital’s emergency services increases five fold during the summer. In addition to the precipitous state of emergency departments it is also acknowledged that non emergency waiting lists will lengthen over the summer.

In an attempt to alleviate the areas where the greatest pressure is felt, it has been proposed that some hospital departments close, or run at half occupancy, to free up resources in other areas. “The emergency room is always a mess. But whereas before there would be a one hour wait, now there will be two,” said a spokesperson for the Spanish Union of Nurses.

For those full time staff who do manage to take a summer holiday, doctors are being covered by other full time colleagues for just under 13 per cent of their workload; nursing cover runs at 68 per cent and other ancillary staff (cooks, security guards etc) at 61 per cent,  according to the Health Workers Union.

Similarly, in local Health Centres, it is estimated that these will be running at approximately 66 per cent staffing capacity, due to the staff shortages. Finally, medical specialists will be covered for only 32 per cent of their work, when absent.

By Paul Deed

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