2 Apr, 2024 @ 13:53
2 mins read

Government in Spain’s Madrid region under fire for sending bills to families of elderly Covid victims who died in senior residences – four years later

THE government in Spain’s Madrid region has been slammed by the public and opposition politicians alike for sending out bills to the families of elderly victims of the Covid-19 pandemic who died in old people’s homes. 

Families of the deceased have reacted with fury after receiving the letters reclaiming the ‘debts’, which have arrived in some cases more than four years after they lost their loved ones. 

“I was completely paralysed for three days,” Angela Armingol told the radio network Cadena SER, after she was informed by post that she owed €901.58 for the days that her father was in a home during March and April 2020 until his death. 

“I read it front, back, up and down because I thought it was unbelievable,” she added. 

Another recipient of one of the letters, Maria de Alvaro, told Cadena SER that she was also unable to understand why the Madrid regional government, which is headed by the conservative Partido Popular, was going after the money now.

“After everything that happened, how can it possibly be that someone at a board of directors meeting at the Madrid regional government has approved charging us for this money?” she asked. 

Since the pandemic, the PP regional government, which is headed up by premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso, has been under fire for not having sent residents of senior homes with Covid-19 to hospitals for medical treatment, essentially leaving them to die in the opinion of the victims’ families. 

Isabel Diaz Ayuso and Enrique Ossorio
Madrid regional premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso. Miguel Candela/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire)

A total of 7,291 seniors are thought to have died from coronavirus in Madrid old people’s homes without being sent to hospital on orders from the regional government, as the health system struggled to cope with the crisis. 

Despite Ayuso’s strenuous defence of no wrongdoing, internal documents from her own government that have recently come to light show that in March and April of 2020, 76% of the coronavirus victims in public homes were not sent to hospitals. 

At a recent protest against Ayuso’s government for its handling of the public health crisis, Pablo Fernandez, the spokesperson for leftist party Podemos, called on the PP premier to quit. 

“Ayuso must resign because she is responsible for the murder of thousands of senior citizens in the Madrid region,” he told the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post. “And she has to quit because she is corrupt and a mafioso,” he added, in reference to a recent scandal involving accusations of tax fraud levelled at her partner. 

Given the circumstances surrounding the deaths of so many seniors in the Madrid region during the pandemic, the letters sent out by the Ayuso government reclaiming debts for care have been especially traumatic for the recipients who have spoken out. 

For its part, the Socialist-led central government has joined the chorus of criticism over the letters. 

“With these demands, the only thing that the Madrid regional government is showing is a lack of humanity and respect toward the pain of these families,” said education minister and government spokesperson Pilar Alegria on Tuesday. 

A pensioner is moved by an ambulance crew in Madrid during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I wish that they had been so diligent as to send those patients to hospitals,” she added, in comments also reported by Cadena SER.

The Madrid regional government, meanwhile, has defended the letters. Sources from the Social Affairs department told Cadena SER that ‘all of the public administrations are obliged under state law to ask citizens to pay their debts’.

“The state legislation did not establish any kind of exception for pending debts during the pandemic,” the same sources added. 

The sources also claimed that the process had taken so long because it was ‘complex’, given that the regional administration had to first locate the descendants of the victims and then track down their addresses. 

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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