19 Jul, 2022 @ 10:45
3 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: Crisis at Torrevieja hospital on Spain’s Costa Blanca as doctors quit in their droves and patients wait ‘up to 60 hours for a bed’

U-turn by regional health bosses after Torrevieja Hospital staff voted for strike action on Spain's Costa Blanca

DOCTORS at the Costa Blanca’s most beleaguered hospital have slammed the appalling working conditions and disgraceful levels of care.

They told the Olive Press that delays of UP TO 18 HOURS were frequent for patients just to see a doctor at Torrevieja Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department was functioning with around ‘a 50% staffing level’, with sometimes ‘just three doctors’.

And in an alarming state of affairs, we can reveal that dozens of medics have resigned over conditions where patients are sometimes forced to wait for UP TO 60 HOURS for a bed.

Emergency doctor, Jose Peris Giner, who resigned last month, told the Olive Press that his position had become untenable. 

“I didn’t believe I could work under such conditions any longer,” said the senior medic, who worked at the hospital for 15 years. “It has got to breaking point.”

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Jose Peris Giner- Former doctor at Torrevieja’s Hospital. Image: Olive Press.

He continued: “When you receive a patient who has been waiting for more than eight hours, it is really difficult to develop a relationship with them.

“Everything promised was never put into action. I think the director should resign.”

Matters got so heated last autumn that police had to be called in to calm down angry patients who waited for hours to be seen.

The Olive Press reported last month how a Swedish family was so shocked at the treatment of their father, Bo-Eskil Svensson, 80, they kidnapped him from the ward and took him home to Sweden.

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Swedish family was so shocked at the treatment of their father, Bo-Eskil Svensson. Image: Olive Press.

Over the last two years we have continually highlighted worsening conditions at the hospital.

Doctor Peris confirmed things spiralled dramatically from 2020 when private firm Riviera Salud was told it would be losing its contract to the Valencian government in 2022.

“While Valencian officials promised the hospital would improve when they took over, that’s far from reality,” Peris added.

Indeed, he explained that staffing issues came to a crisis point in the autumn as doctors and other medical staff quit ahead of the changeover.

His damning indictment was backed up by local union boss, doctor Jose Manuel Peris.

“There are simply not enough doctors and the ones who are employed are overworked,” he told the Olive Press.

“They hire doctors but they instantly quit as the working conditions are not good enough.” 

'Shock' plan to reduce Torrevieja Hospital waiting times on Spain's Costa Blanca claims to be working
Torrevieja’s Hospital. Image: Cordon Press.

He added that the A&E department was working on around ‘50% of the staff needed’ and this is causing stress and depression among his members, resulting in a worse service for patients.

“Most doctors 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.

While the Valencian Health Ministry says average A&E waiting times have fallen by 15% since the plan was introduced in June, unions rubbished the claim.

They insist patients are simply being backed up in A&E corridors or observation rooms with delays of ‘up to 60 hours’ for a hospital bed. 

According to medical unions the problems began when the hospital returned to public management in October, after years of political rows.

Previously the hospital, run by Ribera Salud since 2006, had regularly appeared in ‘best hospital’ lists and won numerous awards.

“It is really alarming as 15 years ago it was one of the best hospitals in Spain,” Torrevieja mayor Eduardo Dolon told the Olive Press.

“It is a fact that a lot of doctors left over broken promises of excellent working conditions when it changed from private management,” added Dolon, who insisted hospital chiefs neither briefed his office, nor local media.

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Eduardo Dolon(Torrevieja Ayuntamiento image)

Valencia’s new Health Minister, Miguel Minguez, has vowed to change the situation and after introducing a ‘shock’ plan on waiting times claims there has been a 15% reduction in the first fortnight of June. 

He claims heavy investment has led to an increase of staff to 1,793 people, compared to just 1,043 when Ribera’s contract ended.

Yet, despite continual requests for answers on specific complaints over the last six weeks, the Olive Press has been totally rebuffed.

The hospital spokesman has allegedly had Covid for two months, while the director has ‘not been available’ for media requests.

The Valencian regional authorities failed to get back to either phone calls or emails.
Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es with your specific stories.


Alex Trelinski

Alex worked for 30 years for the BBC as a presenter, producer and manager. He covered a variety of areas specialising in sport, news and politics. After moving to the Costa Blanca over a decade ago, he edited a newspaper for 5 years and worked on local radio.

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