Flu and stomach bug causes havoc in Spanish hospitals

Spanish accident and emergency departments in crisis due to flu and stomach bug

It has become normal to see Spanish accident and emergency departments full of patients, even up to the point where patients need to wait on beds in the corridor at this time of year. However, over the last few weeks some Spanish hospitals have treated record numbers of patients some of which had to wait up to 12 hours before receiving treatment from a doctor. This situation has arisen due to a simple flu and stomach bug. However according to the General Director of Public Health, Manuel Oñorbe, the 2008 flu virus is not half as virulent as in previous years. He indicated that 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is far from the numbers for 2000 and 2005 where were 600 cases per 100,000.

Given that this is a situation which arises every year around the same time some people have asked why hospitals in Spain find it so difficult to cope and why they don’t plan better.

There are a number of reasons to explain why hospitals still find it so difficult to accommodate flu epidemics.

Firstly, the number of routine operations don’t go down which means that many beds are occupied. Another reason is lack of planning of staff holidays over the Christmas period and the fact that more than half of hospital admissions are through accident and emergency departments (out of 24.5 million people treated 3 million are admitted). In addition it appears that Spanish doctors are turning to other specialities where they have better chances of promotion.

Manuel Moya, the head of accident and emergency in the Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid said that it is becoming more and more difficult to fill posts in his department. In addition the Spanish population has increased in recent years.

In Galicia the incidence of flu has created serious problems in hospitals which have seen the number of people attending accident and emergency shoot up by 25% compared to figures for last year.

Some patients have had to wait between 8 and 12 hours to be seen. The Galician health service has opened a telephone line for patients to consult before going to their nearest hospital (902 40 01 16).

Hospitals in Valencia are experiencing fewer problems except for the General hospital in Alicante which has an excess of patients with flu symptoms. According to hospital authorities a large number of patients are not really urgent cases but have had to resort to coming to hospital to avoid having to wait days before being able to get an appointment with their local GP.

In the Basque Country accident and emergency departments have been finding it difficult to cope with the number of patients attending with flu symptoms.

Although officials say that things are under control union officials have spoken of chaos in some hospitals. It is expected that things will worsen here in the next few days.
The situation in Madrid seems to be under control with beds in corridors considered as almost normal at this time of year.

In Andalucia the flu virus appears to be under control with the number of cases going down – 91% less than last year.