This summer it very much looks as though health management is going to be overwhelmed once again, as many health centres are already warning of long delays, which they say are going to get even lengthier as medical staff begin to take their seasonal leave. They warn that many patients are already unable to contact their centres, even by telephone.

The accrual of several bank holidays and the beginning of holidays among health staff has already led some of these departments issuing guidelines aimed at forcing family doctors to cover daily up to 70 patients, compared to the current, and usually heavy workload, of fifty.

Medical Centres that serve a greater number of people, the numbers of which increase during the summer, such as Cabo de las Huertas in Alicante, are now facing delays for telephone-only appointments of up to 18 days. It is a similar situation in Benalúa, where staff cannot cope, despite the fact that the centre is one that is traditionally among those that have the least delay. In this clinic, which is located in a central area of ​​Alicante, the delay is now three days longer for a telephone appointment than for a face-to-face one.

The queues also overflow in Florida Babel, with patients stating that they are completely “fed up” of trying to get through by phone, without success, hence their attendance at the centre with the intention of making an appointment, during the next few days.

In the areas covered by the Elche Department of Health the delays are not quite so pronounced but they still amount to a week or more for both face-to-face and telephone appointments.

Medical Unions are claiming that only 21% and 27% of the doctors in the health centres supporting Alicante, Elche and the coastal areas, are being replaced with holiday cover, while in areas such as Elche-Vinalopó, that figure drops to only 13%.

Similar percentages are replicated in Orihuela, Elda and the Marina Baixa, where only between 20% and 40% of the doctors receive holiday cover.

“These are not adequate figures in any circumstance, and even less so in the current epidemiological situation that, let us remember, has not yet been resolved”, said a spokesperson for the CESM provincial delegation.

The accumulated fatigue among health workers has also practically exhausted their willingness to work overtime in attempts to reduce the accumulated delay in health centres, as the stressful year of fighting the pandemic has significantly reduced the number of doctors offering to work extended hours.