La Paz Hospital (Madrid). Photo: EFE/Mariscal

 

Doctors, nurses, scientists, cleaners and all healthcare workers are showing admirable professionalism and dedication in the face of an unprecedented health crisis

 

We have often said that Spain has one of the best public healthcare systems in the world, and this is reflected in various international indices, studies, rankings and organisations such as the World Economic Forum, Bloomberg or The Lancet. What is seldom said – or not as often as it should – is that none of this would be possible without the real heroes behind these figures: the doctors, nurses, assistants and the rest of the staff in our hospitals and medical centres. Through their professionalism and extraordinary dedication they are demonstrating that when facing an unprecedented health crisis such as this one, public health is more than ever one of the most fundamental pillars of our country.

Spain has almost 650,000 healthcare workers distributed throughout its 466 hospitals and 13,000 primary care centres, according to data (from 20 February, 2020) from the Ministry of Health. Among them, we have 147,000 doctors, most of them in hospitals and emergency services; and 182,000 nurses. In addition there are approximately 317,000 other staff who provide patient care and ensure that our health system runs efficiently: from nursing assistants to administrative staff. In addition, there are thousands of people dedicated to providing services such as cleaning, laundry, catering, security and so many other indispensable services. In total, the State dedicates 9% of the Gross Domestic Product to the  public healthcare system.

Professionals from hospitals such as La Paz, Gregorio Marañón, Doce de Octubre or the Príncipe de Asturias in Madrid, and those from hospitals in Catalonia and the Basque Country – the other two regions most affected by the virus – are facing complex situations with admirable professionalism and integrity.

They are being joined, as the Ministry of Health recently announced, by another 30,000 doctors and nurses, in order to reinforce the system and relieve the pressure that Spanish hospitals, and especially intensive care units, are currently enduring.

 

The daily applause of the citizens

 

Spanish citizens are conscious of the fact that the work being carried out by healthcare professionals, is essentially shielding all citizens from the effects of the coronavirus. Every evening at 8:00 pm, hundreds of thousands of people come out to applaud those 650,000 people who are working around the clock to help stop the pandemic and take care of our patients, both those affected by the coronavirus and those suffering from other diseases.

 

 

A daily tribute to which healthcare workers from different hospitals have responded by reminding us that the best contribution we can make to help combat this virus is to stay at home.

 

It is not only in crisis situations that the Spanish population recognises the extraordinary value of having a public healthcare system, armed with medical professionals. Nearly 7 out of 10 people have positively evaluated its efficiency, and health care in hospitals has an overall rating of 7 points out of 10, according to data from the Ministry of Health. The Spanish public healthcare system covers 100% of the population, and only 0.2% consider that there are barriers (economic, geographical or waiting lists) which prevent them from fully covering their medical needs, this is the second lowest percentage in the EU after Austria.

 

Scientific research is taking place around the clock

 

Together with the health sector, the Spanish scientific and research community is working around the clock to offer possible solutions to the current health crisis. In addition to the 24 million euros allocated by the Ministry of Science to high-level research against the coronavirus – which was given to the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid (ISCIII – acronym in Spanish) – other projects that were already underway in various Spanish research centres have joined the cause.

The Fight Against AIDS Foundation at the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona (Barcelona) is preparing a pioneering clinical trial, one of the first in the world. Its aim is to stop transmission by administering an antiviral to mild cases to reduce the viral strength while also administering an antimicrobial to those who have been in close contact in order to protect them. The investigation that is being carried out by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC – acronym in Spanish), has seen possibilities in using a drug developed for the treatment of melanoma. The next step will be to test it on different types of viruses that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome.

 

Archive photo: ISCIII

 

The European Commission is also funding six projects from eight Spanish research centres. These are the Carlos III Institute of Health (ISCIII) which is involved in creating a European network for research, prevention and control of the Covid-19 pandemic; the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, led by a CSIC professor and working in collaboration with the University of Barcelona, which is developing a nanotechnology device for the rapid detection of Covid-19; the National Centre for Biotechnology-CSIC is developing monoclonal antibodies; the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre is working on the intelligent design of ‘in silico’ drugs; the Barcelona Institute of Biomedical Research; and BCN Peptides.

Spain is also collaborating with the international clinical trial that has already been launched by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Spanish Drug Agency is also in permanent contact with national and international agents to assist with new studies on clinical measures in the fight against Covid-19.

And last but not least we cannot forget the incredible solidarity shown by Spanish citizens, as the Minster of Science reminded us in his press conference on 20 March. This was shown by rectors from 27 universities and 1000 teachers who volunteered to carry out diagnosis tests for coronavirus. At this press conference he also announced that the sum of 500 million euros would be allocated to those companies who manufacture healthcare equipment and disinfectants.