Spain’s Ifema Covid-19 field hospital, the largest in Europe, will close tomorrow

Europe’s largest Covid-19 field hospital, Ifema in Madrid, closes this week with medical personnel preparing to return to their usual health centres and hospitals on Monday.

TOMORROW will be the last day at the 5,500-bed emergency facility for all the health workers, firefighters and the military, who have been there since March 21.

After 41 days, the hospital closes its doors, having seen 3,750 discharges – which means 98 per cent of coronavirus patients who spent the night in Ifema managed to to recover from the disease.

At the entrance, a picture of a rainbow is caption: “Together we shall overcome.” There is no signature, but the artist has written: “I don’t know who you are, but get well soon.”

Medical staff have been quoted in Spainsh press claiming this reflects the true spirit of Ifema.

There are currently over 30 left in the remaining operational Ward 9, 28 are under observation and two in ICU.

The majority are expected to be released in the next 24 hours, or will be referred to another hospital.

Wards 5 and 7 were the first to take patients, and Assistant Manager of primary care SEMAS, Jesus Vazquez, remembers it like it was yesterday.

He said that on the first day at Ifema, “there were more than 3,000 people waiting for a bed in Madrid.”

That period of the pandemic has thankfully passed, he stressed, but that does not mean the field hospital will be closed down completely, in case there is an upsurge.

“All the channels and logistics are going to be prepared so that in 24 or 48 hours the hospital can be available again,” he said.


Ward 10 is currently used for receiving and storing medical supplies, both bought and donated in recent weeks, and will stay open for an undisclosed amount of time.

Sources at the hospital said until there is a new location it will continue to be used as a warehouse and distribution point for more than 100 health centres in the region.

As well as taking in an overflow of Covid-19 patients, Ifema has provided shelter for the homeless.

The Marques de Samaranch sports centre was also opened, with a capacity for another 150 people

Despite the fact that the President of the Community, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, announced the facility’s closure yesterday, the section where the homeless are staying will remain operational until May 31.

Women on the streets, who are much more vulnerable, have been taken in by other types of facilities such as shelters, said Director General of Emergencies, Alejandro López.

In the more than 40 days, nearly 200 homeless people have passed through it.

While a few have reportedly returned to the streets, the remainder are worried about their future, and what will happen when this is over.

“I’m very attentive to the news, to get an idea of what’s going on outside and what I might find when I get out of here,” said one of the temporary residents Felix, 31.

López said “this is an emergency device, but we want to transform these places in other stables.”

As such, the City Council is trying to provide alternative accommodation, so that “these people do not return to the street situation.”

He added: “The social services were collapsed and we were able to set this up, and we will continue to offer support.”

But the 150 people who remain at Ifema are still concerned.

Pedro Altungy, Psychologist and Assistant Co-ordinator of Grupo 5, the company which helped deploy Ifema, said things were complicated to begin with, and “there were fights and confrontations.”

But over the weeks, residents have bonded.

He said they “came with quite a few adaptation problems and anxiety, but you see the space, it gives them peace of mind and security, and we see them more focused and accessible, which makes us happy.

“Now my friends number 150, and we all lend a hand.”

Author badge placeholder
Written by

Tara Rippin

Tara Rippin is a reporter for Spain’s largest English-speaking newspaper, Euro Weekly News, and is responsible for the Costa Blanca region.
She has been in journalism for more than 20 years, having worked for local newspapers in the Midlands, UK, before relocating to Spain in 1990.
Since arriving, the mother-of-one has made her home on the Costa Blanca, while spending 18 months at the EWN head office in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
She loves being part of a community that has a wonderful expat and Spanish mix, and strives to bring the latest and most relevant news to EWN’s loyal and valued readers.

Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page