After weeks of complaints over long waits and understaffing, Torrevieja Hospital has restructured its emergency department and has launched a crisis plan to improve the service.
Hospital managers met on Friday with Mónica Almiñana, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Universal Health and Public Health and Enrique Soler, Deputy Director General of Integrated Care Activity, with the aim of designing a so called Shock Plan that will come into effect immediately.
The move comes after a recent barrage of complaints about the emergency department with patients being made to wait for hours before being attended. Earlier this month, A&E hired a new Head of Service and a Head of Section, in addition to reinforcing staffing across all its professional categories, expanding hours and personnel in all the Continuous Care Points (PACs) of the Department. Added to these existing measures is the creation of a new ‘quick care consultation’ without waiting, the provision of new special cubicles, in addition to the involvement of different medical specialties from the hospital itself. On the other hand, the Ministry of Health and hospital management are working to support and strengthen medical specialists from other hospitals in the area, who can support healthcare activity in Torrevieja at peak times.
The announcement from the hospital came after a week laden with complaints on social networks. Among the complaints, one was made public by an emergency doctor who works at the hospital in which it was claimed that “patients die unhappily in the corridors” after more than eight hours of waiting. The mayor of Torrevieja, Eduardo Dolón condemned the situation on Thursday, saying that the situation is “unsustainable” and that he had warned about the lack of human resources, which focuses on the lack of doctors to cover shifts and delays of five, ten and fifteen hours in A&E with only nursing assistance in triage. On Friday the mayor said that what the shock plan should announce is the hiring of more doctors. He has also indicated that he plans to meet with the new Minister of Health early this week.
The hospital says that the emergency department has hired professionals in all categories: 38 more nurses, going from 21 to 58, eight more Auxiliary Nursing Care Technicians, going from 15 to 23, four additional guards, going from 17 to 21. In addition, during the Easter period, two extra guards were hired. The Emergency Department had then also hired two additional administrative professionals, going from six to eight. However, it has not been possible to hire specialist doctors.
The announcement of the ‘shock plan’ for the Emergency Department coincides with the decision to leave the service of one of its most experienced emergency medicine doctors, Dr. José Peris, who announced on Friday his departure from Torrevieja instead join the Vinalopó Hospital team. He does so after fifteen years of medical work in the Emergency Department and union representation. Reports claim that Dr Peris is exhausted from the situation over the last number of weeks of ‘extreme saturation’ in the Emergency Room in Torrevieja. “Doctors are vocational. And sometimes we hope to have resolved a patient’s situation and receive a smile. Now we are caring for patients and their families whom we meet after more than eight and nine hours of waiting. I thought I would finish my professional life in Torrevieja, where I live, but we cannot go to work scared. In January the situation improved with the new leadership and it was noted that whoever took responsibility wanted to change things. And we support it”. However, that person in charge of the service decided to leave the position in the middle of Easter week due to an apparent lack of resources. The doctor indicated that unfortunately he does not trust that the shock plan will substantially change the situation this summer. He also pointed out that there are barely 16 or 17 doctors working full time out of the 36 that are needed to maintain the service. The 24 that the management says are assigned to the Emergency Department, are hired on isolated shifts or are part time. “No one is considering changing their place of work at 64 years old,” he pointed out, as a way to explain his decision and as a reflection of the situation at hand in Torrevieja’s Emergency Department.
Staff reinforcement across the rest of the hospital
Since the takeover of the hospital into public management, according to figures from the Ministry of Health, the workforce has gone from 1,043 to 1,793 workers, which represents an increase of 58%. The management claims that it guarantees 100% care coverage of the population in key services such as emergencies, primary care and general hospitalization.
The number of professionals has also increased in Primary Care. The care strategy for this summer is focused on maintaining urgent care throughout the Department with the 24-hour opening of the 6 Continuous Care Points (PAC). The integration of Primary and Specialized Care allows the PACs to be connected with the hospital, so that users can solve their health problems closer to home, without having to face long waits at the hospital.