Budget cuts keep heart attack victim from getting treatment

Tarragona hospital "shuts down at 6pm," leaving Barcelona as nearest option

A 64-year-old Tarragona man who suffered a heart attack said he was turned away from a local hospital because of budget cuts in the cash-starved Catalan healthcare system.

Felipe Rivas was taken by ambulance on December 19 to Joan XXIII Hospital after he experienced strong chest pains. "I had this sharp pain in the chest and they wouldn't treat me. I was afraid I wasn't going to make it."

Inside the ambulance, Rivas said he heard one of the medical technicians say they might have to take him to Barcelona because the Tarragona hospital closes at 6pm. They arrived at 5.30pm and no one was available to treat him, Rivas said.

"This would have never occurred a few years ago," he said.

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Officials at Joan XXIII Hospital acknowledged there wasn't enough time to prepare a treatment facility before the center closed.

Rivas had to be taken to Bellvitge Hospital in Barcelona, where he was treated two hours after his initial call for an ambulance.

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