CORONAVIRUS

Spanish social service residences have suffered at least 11,600 coronavirus deaths

The figure, calculated by EL PAÍS, includes those in homes for seniors and the disabled. The central government is yet to offer global data

Members of the military arrive at a residence in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, to carry out disinfections.
Members of the military arrive at a residence in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, to carry out disinfections.CARLOS SPOTTORNO

At least 11,600 people in Spain have died in social service residences due to the coronavirus or with compatible symptoms. The figure includes homes for seniors and also for those with disabilities, meaning that for now it is impossible to know just how hard hit old people’s homes have been.

But what is obvious from the numbers is that these centers have been one of the major focal points of the outbreak. The data has been drawn from the figures that have been supplied by Spain’s regions, each of which can choose what it makes public. The central Spanish government is still yet to supply official information on this aspect of the coronavirus epidemic, given that some regions are yet to hand over the required data.

A large proportion of those who died in social services residencies were not tested for Covid-19

According to the latest data supplied by the Health Ministry on Wednesday, 18,579 people in Spain have died due to the coronavirus. These patients were tested for the Covid-19 disease before passing away, a process that mostly took place in hospitals. It is not known how many of the 11,657 residents in social services homes estimated by EL PAÍS to have died also figure on the official statistics. The health department in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, for example, only sends the ministry data about those who have died in hospital. A large proportion of those who died in social services residencies were not tested for Covid-19.

Whether they are public or private, residences are obliged to send a daily report to the competent authority, in this case their regional government. An order sent out from the Health Ministry was aimed at homogenizing the information that each regional health chief was receiving. But some, such as Andalusia, only report cases that have been confirmed via a test; others, such as Extremadura and Catalonia, also include fatalities where compatible symptoms were detected. Some offer data broken down by senior center, while others, such as Aragón and Castilla y León, offer the global figure, including all social service centers.

Despite the order from the Health Ministry, there are regions that are yet to offer the required data. “If I remember rightly, I believe that there are still some regions, I’m not sure if there were two or three, that are yet to report,” explained Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, at Wednesday’s daily coronavirus press conference. He added that the government’s coronavirus technical committee would not “begin the analysis” until it has all of the information requested, according to news agency Europa Press.

The most critical situation has been seen in Madrid, which has been the Spanish area worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic

Since the beginning of March, when news of a coronavirus outbreak was reported in La Paz senior residency in Madrid, there has been a constant stream of similar cases, affecting all of Spain’s regions. But the most critical situation has been seen in Madrid, which has been the Spanish area worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the region’s social policies department reported that 4,953 people had died in 710 social services residencies, either confirmed Covid-19 cases or with compatible symptoms. Of these, 475 were senior homes, but the number of deaths in these residences alone is currently unknown. Until now, the only figure available was supplied on Tuesday by the health chief in Madrid City Hall: 2,820 deaths in senior homes since the crisis began, a much lower figure than that reported by the regional government.

Madrid is followed by Catalonia in terms of cases, with 1,898 deaths in senior homes reported on Monday. This figure was supplied by the centers themselves and includes not just confirmed cases thanks to testing, but also those who died with compatible symptoms.

What’s more, the figure includes not just residents who died in the actual centers, but also those who passed away in hospitals, making the figures impossible to compare with those sent by the regional health center to the Health Ministry, which reported cases only in healthcare centers. Late on Wednesday, the Catalan regional government added a methodological chance, offering data reported by funeral services, based on death certificates. According to this information, 1,810 people died in Catalan residences.

In terms of numbers of cases, Madrid and Catalonia are followed by Castilla y León, which saw 827 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in 1,214 residences – 698 of which were senior centers. What’s more, the region reported that 1,039 people died with compatible symptoms. Castilla-La Mancha has confirmed 621 confirmed coronavirus fatalities in senior residences alone.

According to 2018 data from the Institute of Seniors and Social Services, there are 381,000 places in more than 5,400 senior centers across all of Spain

According to 2018 data from the Institute of Seniors and Social Services, there are 381,000 places in more than 5,400 senior centers across all of Spain. For weeks now, the sector has been calling for personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in these residencies, which will shield residents from the spread of the virus among this particularly vulnerable sector of society, given their advanced age and underlying health conditions.

These centers have also been calling for widespread testing, in order to measure the impact of the coronavirus across all centers, and that affected residents be treated by the health system, given that in Madrid and Catalonia there have been complaints that patients have not been transferred to hospital once they show symptoms.

The situation is very different depending on the region. In recent weeks, PPE has started to arrive at these centers, and diagnostic testing has begun in the residences.

With reporting by Virginia Vadillo, Silvia R. Pontevedra, Eva Saiz and Ferran Bono.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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