The influential medical journal The Lancet has called for an independent investigation into the Spanish government´s response to the Covid-19 outbreak in order to plan for “better pandemic preparedness, preventing premature deaths and building a resilient health system, with scientific evidence at its core”.
Despite having a highly rated health system ( Spain ranks 15th in the Global Health Security Index) there have been over 350 000 registered cases and 28,617 confirmed deaths from the virus. The Spanish newspaper El Pais claimed that fatalities are far higher pointing to over 44,000 excess deaths with the same period to August in 2019 which, if included, would make Spain one of the epicentres of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
In addition over 50,000 health and emergency workers were infected and the country recorded nearly 20,000 deaths in nursing and old aged people´s homes.
The report highlights some potential explanations for the high figures including a lack of pandemic preparedness (this includes, weak surveillance systems, low capacity for PCR tests, and scarcity of personal protective equipment and critical care equipment), a delayed reaction by central and regional authorities, slow decision-making processes, high levels of population mobility and migration, poor coordination among central and regional authorities, low reliance on scientific advice, an ageing population, vulnerable groups experiencing health and social inequalities, and a lack of preparedness in nursing homes.
The report accepts that “these problems were exacerbated by the effects of a decade of austerity that had depleted the health workforce and reduced public health and health system capacities” from the financial crisis of 2009.
Whilst not seeking to apportion blame the report urges a ” comprehensive evaluation of the health and social care systems”to “prepare the country for further waves of COVID-19” as well as future pandemics, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and lessons learnt with an independent and impartial evaluation by a panel of international and national experts, focusing on the activities of the central government as well as the governments of the 17 autonomous communities and to cover three disticnt areas:
- Governance and decision making
- Scientific and technical advice
- Operational capacity.
To date Spain has registered 358,843 registered coronavirus cases of which 28,617 have been fatal.