Health workers demand resignations over Ebola infection

“We did not have the infrastructure to deal with a virus of this importance,” says labor union

Health workers stage a protest on Tuesday outside La Paz hospital in Madrid after a nursing assistant was infected with ebola.
Health workers stage a protest on Tuesday outside La Paz hospital in Madrid after a nursing assistant was infected with ebola.LUIS SEVILLANO (EL PAÍS)

Medical workers on Tuesday demanded explanations from the authorities as to how a Spanish nursing assistant who treated a missionary with Ebola at the Carlos III hospital could have been infected with the virus. Staff at the Madrid health center held an impromptu protest outside the main entrance and called for Spain’s health minister, Ana Mato, to resign.

Other protests were also held at La Paz Hospital, in the north of Madrid, and Alcorcón Hospital, in the southwestern suburb of that name, where the nursing assistant was admitted on Monday after complaining of a fever.

Labor unions from the sector are demanding answers from the Health Ministry and some are calling for resignations. One union, the CSI-F, has called for action against the “inadequate and insufficient” management of the Ebola virus in Spain. Representatives from the union say they are collecting information with a view to starting legal action, and have also called for the resignation of the head of the Carlos III Hospital.

This was a protocol that was not properly activated and that did not work properly”

“It was not human error,” said Elena Moral, the CSI-F spokesperson. “It was a protocol that was not properly activated and that did not work properly. We are not prepared to see her blamed,” she added, in reference to the infected nursing assistant, Teresa R. R.

Moral added that the medical teams who treated the infected missionaries, who both died from Ebola, did not have “sufficient safety measures in place, and that their training was inadequate.”

The CSI-F added that the union has been denouncing the “dismantling” of the infectious diseases center at Carlos III since May of this year. “We did not have the infrastructure to deal with a virus of this importance,” said Moral, in reference to the missionaries who were repatriated by the government from Sierra Leone and Liberia. “What was put together was a completely improvised field hospital.”

Antonio Caballero, from the personnel board of the Carlos III Hospital, said that health workers were “very afraid,” given that “some part of the protocol has failed and it needs to be identified.” Caballero added that the infection of the nursing assistant showed that the government’s sweeping cuts to the health system in recent years have had a drastic effect. “They need to look where they are making cutbacks.”

A labor union said La Paz staff were “in a state of panic” as they do not have the training to treat the patient

A Madrid health union has also denounced the fact that the staff who treated the two missionaries infected with Ebola had not received proper training to deal with such patients, and have called for politicians to accept responsibility.

In a joint press conference, Julián Ordóñez, from the UGT labor union, said La Paz healthcare professionals in charge of the infected nursing assistant’s care were “in a state of panic” given that they do not have the proper training to deal with her.

“They have proven professional experience, but they do not have the training or sufficient knowledge to deal with the care of infectious patients,” Ordóñez added, explaining that the staff had been given a talk lasting just 15 or 20 minutes.

The unions called for the resignation of Health Minister Ana Mato, and that of Madrid regional government chief Ignacio González, for having overseen the “dismantling” of the Carlos III hospital.

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