BARCELONA, Spain ( Associated Press) – Spain’s medical community has won after a court order ordered a regional government to charge doctors 49,000 euros ($56,000) for working without personal protective suits during the devastating early months of the pandemic. ) should be compensated.
The lawsuit brought by a doctors’ union is the first of its kind to be won in Spain, whose health care system was pushed to the brink when COVID-19 first struck.
“The decision is unprecedented in Spain,” Dr Victor Pedrera, general secretary of the doctors’ union of Valencia CESM-CV, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Pedera, a family doctor, said he became ill with COVID-19 shortly after arriving in Spain in March 2020 and spent two months at home “quite badly and had no idea what was being done to treat Was.”
The court in the eastern province of Alicante ruled late Tuesday that the region of Valencia had failed to protect the health of its doctors during the first three months of the pandemic. The judge said the lack of personal protective suits “posed a serious safety and health hazard to all healthcare workers, especially doctors, because of their direct contact.”
The judge ordered the 153 doctors in the trial to pay compensation ranging from €5,000 to €49,000.
Doctors who were forced to work without proper protection, but did not become infected nor were forced to isolate, would receive 5,000 euros. Compensation rises to 15,000 euros for doctors forced to isolate, 35,000 euros for those infected but not requiring hospital care, and up to 49,000 euros for doctors who are hospitalised.
Valencia’s government will appeal the ruling, but regional chief Zimo Puig issued an apology to medical workers, saying the initial impact of the pandemic was “completely unexpected”.
The ruling said the region’s health administration had failed to fulfill its duty to protect doctors “from the time it knew of the existence of COVID-19 and especially after the declaration of a national state of emergency.” “
Spain’s General Board of Doctors, which represents regional unions, celebrated the decision in a statement to the Associated Press, while “lamenting that it does not apply to every doctor.” It said that 121 doctors in Spain had lost their lives due to COVID-19.
Spain, like many countries, struggled to supply personal protective suits and face masks to its health workers during the first months of the pandemic. The national government imposed a strict home confinement for several weeks after declaring a state of emergency in March 2020.
The decision comes as Spain’s health care system is once again being strained by a new wave of infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, even though the death toll is now too low to make up for the country’s high vaccination rate.
About 25% of critical care units are occupied by COVID-19 patients and emergency workers are saying they can hardly walk.
“We are exhausted. Emergency workers are at their limit,” said Dr. Tato Vazquez-Lima, president of the Spanish Society for Emergency Medicine.
Pedrera said more lawsuits are coming from other doctors in Valencia and he expects even more lawsuits from health workers of all kinds across Spain.
“I’m sure health workers and other groups of doctors from other regions will be encouraged to move forward with their own lawsuits,” Pedera said. “It will be on him who opens the door.”
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