DOCTORS are still resigning from Torrevieja Hospital, citing poor working conditions, despite an alleged reduction in emergency waiting times thanks to a ‘shock’ plan.
The Valencian Health Ministry claims average ER waiting times have fallen by 15% since the plan was introduced in early June.
Hospital unions rubbished the claim, stating that patients were waiting in ER corridors to be seen on Monday with delays of up to 60 hours for a hospital bed.
The state of Torreveija Hospital’s emergency department has been one of many criticisms levelled by politicians, patients, and medical unions at the hospital since it returned to public management last October.
Contractor Ribera Salud ran the facility since 2006 with the hospital, which serves around 180,000 people, regularly appearing in ‘best hospital in Spain’ lists and winning numerous awards.
It was viewed as a ‘blue ribbon’ standard for health provision but after the regional Valencian government was taken over by a ‘left-of centre’ coalition in 2015, the days of a private franchise running public health services were numbered.
The government made it clear in 2020 that Ribera Salud’s contract would not be renewed amidst concerns over whether standards would be maintained, and that’s when problems started to appear.
Torrevieja Hospital emergency doctor, Jose Peris Giner, resigned in early June.
He told the Olive Press: “During the last two years when the hospital was managed by Riviera Salud, the quality of the service decreased as they knew that it would be run by the Valencian government.”
“Valencian officials promised that the hospital would be improved, but that’s far from reality.”
Staffing issues loomed large last autumn as doctors and medical staff quit ahead of the changeover, with appointment delays and well-publicised emergency room waits of many hours.
Peris Giner said: “The reason why I resigned this month was that I didn’t believe I could work in good conditions in that hospital.”
“I think the hospital director, Pilar Santos, should resign because she is responsible for what is happening.”
“When you receive a patient who has been waiting more than eight hours, it is really difficult to develop a relationship with the patient.”
“Every time I was talking with the hospital director, everything that was promised was never put into action.”
Matters got so testy in the ER last autumn that the Guardia Civil were called in to calm down angry patients who waited for hours to be seen.
Valencia’s new Health Minister, Miguel Minguez, had a surprise meeting with Torrevieja health chiefs on Saturday.
They talked about the early impact of their ‘shock’ plan on emergency waiting times with a 15% reduction over a fortnight.
Valencia authorities say there are now 1,793 staff at the hospital, compared to 1,043 when Ribera Salud’s contract ended.
Torrevieja Hospital also recently appointed a new Head of Service to reinforce specialist staffing and extend hours in all of the facility’s Continuous Care Points.
Despite the rise in staff numbers, critics say there is still a massive shortage of doctors.
Local delegate of the Sindicato Medico union, Dr. Jose Manuel Peris, told the Olive Press: “There are not enough doctors and the ones who are employed there are overworked.”
“They hire doctors but they instantly quit as the working conditions are not good enough.”
Manuel Peris referred to the emergency department working on half the doctors needed but chose not to blame hospital director, Pilar Santos.
“She is trying to do everything she can but the only people to blame are from the Valencian government.”
Manuel Peris said that overworking is causing stress and depression among his members, resulting in a worse service for patients.
“Most of them have to work 24-hour shifts without a break, eight days a month, which is against the law.”
“A patient can wait up to 18 hours to be seen and with the low number of doctors, mistakes are more likely.”
He added his members were having to take sick days due to depression and were also taking early retirement.
Torrevieja mayor, Eduardo Dolon, echoed the point over doctor shortages.
“The most affected area of the hospital is emergencies but also in other departments as patients wait a long time to get treated,” he told the Olive Press.
“A lot of doctors left over broken promises of excellent working conditions when it changed from private management,” added Dolon.
The mayor also decried the fact that he hears nothing from hospital management about what’s going on and that they won’t speak either to the media
“British expats are really worried about the hospital as 15 years ago it was one of the best in Spain,” reflected Dolon.
The Olive Press has asked for a response from the management of the Torrevieja Health Department and has been promised an interview in early July.
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