Spanish doctors win lawsuit over lack of protection against COVID-19

Spain’s medical community has won a victory after a court ordered a regional government to compensate medics up to 49,000 euros ($56,000) for having to work without personal protective suits during the devastating first months of the coronavirus pandemic. pandemic

BARCELONA, Spain — The Spanish medical community has scored a victory after a court ordered a regional government to compensate doctors up to 49,000 euros ($56,000) for having to work without personal protective suits during the first devastating months of the pandemic.

“This decision is revolutionary in Spain,” Dr. Víctor Pedrera, general secretary of the Valencian Doctors’ Union CESM-CV, who filed the complaint, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Pedrera, a family doctor, said he fell ill with COVID-19 shortly after it hit Spain in March 2020 and spent two months at home “quite badly and without no idea what was being done for the treatment”.

The judge ordered compensation of between 5,000 and 49,000 euros to be paid to the 153 doctors who were part of the lawsuit.

Doctors who were forced to work without adequate protection but who were not infected or forced to self-isolate will receive 5,000 euros. The compensation increases to 15,000 euros for doctors forced into isolation, 35,000 euros for people infected but who did not need hospital treatment, and 49,000 euros for doctors who required hospitalization.

Valencia’s government will appeal the decision, but regional chief Ximo Puig has issued an apology to medical workers while saying the initial impact of the pandemic was “completely unexpected”.

The decision said the region’s health administration had failed in its duty to protect doctors “from the moment it became aware of the existence of COVID-19 and, in particular after the declaration of the ‘national state of emergency’.

Spain, like many countries, struggled to provide its health workers with personal protective suits and face masks during the first months of the pandemic. The national government imposed strict home confinement for several weeks after declaring a state of emergency in March 2020.

The decision comes as Spain’s healthcare system is once again strained by the new wave of infections caused by the highly contagious variant of omicron, even though deaths are now much lower thanks to the rate of country‘s high vaccination.

Nearly 25% of intensive care units are occupied by patients with COVID-19, primary health care clinics are pressured to continue dealing with the onslaught of new cases and emergency workers say they can at barely follow.

“We are exhausted. Rescuers are at the limit,” said Dr. Tato Vázquez-Lima, president of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine.

Pedrera said more lawsuits are coming from other groups of doctors in Valencia and he expects more lawsuits to come from health workers of all types across Spain.

“I’m sure other groups of health workers and doctors from other areas will be encouraged to bring their own lawsuits,” Pedrera said. “It will be on whoever opens the door.”

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