The situation of serious shortage of masks and other elements that make up the personal protection teams (PPE) with which the health workers protect themselves from contagion when caring for patients has led to political anger between some regional governments and the Ministry of Health, which they accuse of preventing orders from arriving of material to hospitals. The government started a centralized purchase of supplies on the 12th, but the communities have continued to try to supply themselves. Madrid and Catalonia today accused the Government of stopping shipments of material destined for their hospitals at customs.
The decree law of declaration of the state of alarm It has caused great uncertainty among the companies that distribute this material, which is usually imported. The Ministry of Health can – and indeed is – requisition all the masks, glasses, gloves and gowns you find in any factory or warehouse. The possibility of any shipment of sanitary equipment being seized at the borders has put the brakes on import activity. The truth is that the material barely arrives, despite the fact that Chinese manufacturers, for example, offer it for tens of thousands through platforms such as Alibaba.
Professionals from the sector and experts criticize the way in which Health has organized the collection of the material. Eduard Alvarez Palau, professor of logistics and transportation at the Open University of Catalonia, says: “I think it would have been more sensible to establish another type of intervention mechanism. For example, ask product wholesalers to send all the material to one or more intervened warehouses ”. From there, he adds, operations could be coordinated. “But of course, if you act on the market generating uncertainty and expropriating business resources, the answer is shortages, especially in the very short term.” Alvarez believes that in a few days “everything is likely to start working again, within the new stage”.
The political reproaches began to come from the Junta de Andalucia, which criticized the Government for requisitioning 150,000 masks from a company in Jaen, the only national producer of surgical masks (the simplest). Most of that production was purchased by the Board for its public hospitals. The Civil Guard transferred, by indication of Health, the shipment to a Madrid hospital. The ministry replied to Andalusia that other communities have more cases and they have to distribute between all depending on the needs. He also recalled that Andalusia has also received material based on that distribution.
This Thursday the criticism has come from Madrid and Catalonia. Isabel Diaz Ayuso has assured in a radio interview that in the last 48 hours no masks have arrived in her community, and she has accused the Government of having “material of all kinds withheld at customs.” Among this material would also be the “Most worrying”, he has assured, the one that serves to convert hospital beds into intensive care beds (ICUs), supposedly in reference to the respirators needed by hospitalized patients with critically ill pneumonia.
Asked about this issue at the press conference held today, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, has avoided confrontation: “We are going to overcome the virus together. I will not enter into any kind of public discussion with any political representative. I am 100 percent focused on beating the virus. ” In response to the questions, he assured that “today” 324,000 masks have been sent to Madrid, as well as another 245,000 to Andalusia. As he has explained, the only cases of material retention are when “price abuse or illicit trafficking” occurs. “There is no requisition or impediment at customs. Simply the security forces, when they detect cases through social networks of price abuse or illicit trafficking in these products, act to make it available to those who need it, “said Illa.
Also the Minister of Health of the Generalitat, Alba Verges, has accused the Government of paralyzing requests for masks and other material destined for Catalonia. He added that the communities have to be able to buy for themselves, something that the Ministry of Health ensures that they can do. “We are receiving a lot of information from companies and health centers, for this reason, we would not understand, I commented yesterday and I maintain it, that orders that were pending in our health centers could be stopped”, has added. The Health department has not explained, at the request of EL PAÍS, which cases Verges refers to. It could be the case of Igualada, whose mayor has denounced that material for the regional hospital has been held at customs at Barajas Airport. The shipment has already left for its destination after the Health technicians gave the go-ahead when verifying that it met the standards. The Madrid government has also not specified which orders have been held at customs.