The Ministry of Health erred at the crucial moment of the pandemic

The Ministry of Health erred at the crucial moment of the pandemic

Salvador Illa, Minister of Health. Photo: Efe

There are decisions that are disastrous just a few days later. In this crisis there is one that stands out from the rest: the assumption by the Ministry of Health to control and centralize the purchases of the necessary (and very urgent) medical equipment for its subsequent distribution. Both businessmen and politicians, both from one political sign and another, agree that Salvador Illas decision was a complete error that has exacerbated the rate of infections due to the lack of protection material.

To understand well why the Ministry of Health was wrong, you have to know how the National Health System works since the powers were transferred. Today it is the autonomous communities that are prepared both to assume costs immediately and, above all, to know which doors to knock on to obtain the necessary equipment. It is these that have the human team, technical resources and professional baggage to streamline purchases, especially if urgent action is required.

The last general secretaries of Health agree on this idea, as well as the minister of Health in the last legislature of Rajoy, Dolors Montserrat. “The mistake is the lack of foresight, mismanagement and the absolute lack of coordination between Ministries,” the current MEP of the Popular Party begins to explain. If we analyze this first criticism, we must look for answers on why, during the gathering phase, nothing was done. “If in January, due to alerts from the WHO, China and the EU, the purchasing center in Ingesa had been launched (the only organ available to the Ministry and used to supply Ceuta and Melilla, in addition to some concrete purchases) with the participation of communities and private companies we would not be without protection material for health workers, pharmacists and all risk professions. We would not have blocked purchases in customs, unpaid shipments, without respirators and without massive tests ” , it states.

The next step Sanidad took was to take charge of the purchases. The former secretary general of the Ministry who had to deal with the hepatitis C crisis, Ruben Moreno, points out that it is a mistake. “It would have made sense in a previous phase, in the gathering of material, but since it was not done, it no longer makes sense because there is not the necessary agility. The autonomies know how to do it and intercept their purchases under the mistaken conception of equity has been a error, “he says. Also the last secretary general who dealt with a pandemic (influenza A), Jose Martinez Olmos, thinks that he acted late, although he shares blame. “No one did the collection phase, neither did the communities and the alarm was for everyone,” he says, recalling that he had already warned after the influenza A crisis that there must be “a strategic reserve to avoid emergency situations.”

The last of the general secretaries, Ricardo Campos, who also works these days in hospitals, acknowledges that “deficiencies are important.” In addition, he points out that the most normal thing is that “the communities want to buy so as not to reach Madrid levels”.

The decision to assume competencies that are typical of the autonomous regions in times of emergency “is a strategic error,” says the former Health spokesman in the Congress of Deputies for the PSOE, Jesus Maria Fernandez, who explains that human resources in the Ministry are scarce since there are no powers. “There is no rapid response capacity and it should not have been centralized because we have lost valuable days,” he explains. In one way or another, and with the advance of the pandemic, these opinions would reach the Sanchez Executive when on March 19, after a week of unsuccessful purchase attempts, Illa said that the autonomies they wanted could buy

The Ministry has shielded itself in an aggressive market, but what does the latter mean? “That the Ministry is trying to have the guarantees of the bureaucracy in times of war,” says the president of the FEFE pharmaceutical association, Luis de Palacio. The business leader explains that Health has been accumulating errors since he decided to take over the reins and that these have caused the material not to be in Spain. “The importers, who are Spanish who work in China, had made themselves available and have not even received a reply to bring two million masks. The bureaucracy is insufferable at this time. Health rebounding the request to the Ministry of Commerce, then this He returns it and the Ministry sends it back to the Medicines Agency for validation and then they want to give them the price. It has been 10 days since China turned on the tap and we have been the last ones, “he points out.

The ‘medical decisions’

Health professionals do not want to value the government now, their “urgency is different,” they say. However, there is a decision that they do not understand: hire retirees, since they are part of the risk group and are exposed in areas of high transmission of the virus. This is stated by the Emergency Chief of the La Fe Hospital, Javier Millan, who also explains that “Spain has a steeper contagion curve than France or Germany, despite having started later.”

The former Health adviser of Podemos (now in Mas Madrid), Javier Padilla, also shows his concern about infections in doctors. “The figure is amazing,” he says, and he blames it on the lack of protective material.


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