The Covid-19 coronavirus has been wreaking havoc around the world but all the horrors this disease has caused pale in comparison to what happened in Spain.
According to the defence ministry, Spanish soldiers looking to contain covid-19 ended up finding elderly patients in retirement homes abandoned and, in some cases, dead in their beds, the defence ministry has said.
Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles told the private TV channel Telecinco that “The army, during certain visits, found some older people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their beds,”
The Spanish army was helping with relief efforts by going from home to home to help disinfect the surfaces and appliances there.
Spanish prosecutors have said that an investigation is underway and more details are about the be revealed.
Minister Robles also said that the government was “going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way older people are treated” in retirement homes.
The mass abandonments had apparently started weeks ago when the Covid-19 crisis began hitting Spain hard. The standard procedure when an elderly resident in a nursing home passes away is to put their body in cold storage until it can be collected by funeral services.
However, when the case of death was suspected to be coronavirus, the new procedure was to leave the dead in their beds until they can be taken by a properly equipped funeral staff.
The problems here are two-fold – First, because of how devastating the crisis have been in Spain, the retrieval process has started to take up to 24 hours in many cases.
Second, and more importantly, it wasn’t just the dead that were abandoned in their beds in these Spanish care homes, it was all residents.
Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa has said that retirement homes were “an absolute priority for the government”. She also added that “We will exercise the most intensive monitoring of these centers,”
To make matters worse, Madrid’s municipal funeral home has said that they would stop collecting Covid-19 victims as of Tuesday, March 24th because they lack both the capacity to handle the influx and the protective gear to do so safely.
The city is trying to use one of the major ice rinks in Madrid, the Palacio de Hielo (Ice Palace), as an emergency mortuary where Covid-19 will be kept until funeral homes can get to them.
Another benefit of the de Hielo complex in addition to its size and cold temperatures is the fact that it’s situated relatively close to the Ifema congress center where a field hospital for Covid-19 patients has been set up.
It may feel absurd that all these emergency measures are even needed but that’s how hard Spain has been hit by Covid-19 in these last few weeks.
Currently, Spain is the second hardest-hit country in Europe with over 42,000 confirmed cases and almost 3,000 deaths. That’s a mortality rate of 7.5% which is second only to Italy where there have been 69,000 confirmed cases and 6,800 deaths so far – nearly a 10% mortality rate.
What’s concerning to experts is that neither of these countries seem to have reached the “peak” of the crisis with numbers continuing to rise. The Spanish Health Ministry announced that they’ve seen a record number of 514 deaths in just 24 hours.
In light of these numbers, it’s a bit more understandable why both health care and funeral care institutions are struggling to handle the crisis – neither of them were created with the capacity to handle diseased or deceased people in such quantities.