Queues out of the doors at health centres have become a common sight during the sixth wave of Covid infections affecting the Valencia region, but now the situation is said by professionals working in the field to be so bad, they are near breaking point.
Eva Suárez, representative of the Valencian Paediatric Society and spokesperson for the Forum of Primary Care Physicians points out that most primary care appointments are currently closed until 10 January, with medics only attending a reduced number of appointments and emergencies. Of these, “90% of those we serve is Covid”. It has “tripled” the work with reduced staff, bearing in mind that doctors to “have the right to rest”.
The current workload, a figure given by Víctor Pedrera, general secretary of the Medical Union of the Valencian Community CESM-CV, is up to 75 patients per doctor every day. If an 8-hour shift is 480 minutes, 75 appointments represent a visit every six minutes that between entry and wait for each consultation reduces the attention time to below five. In fact, there are professionals who regretably have two or three minute consultations, he says.
“This causes the conditions for care to be bad, with enormous stress among professionals who see that they cannot do their job well and the anger of patients,” says Pedrera.
It also causes delays of up to a week between extracting the sample for a PCR and confirming the positive (in close contacts only one test is done a week), a 12-day delay to make an appointment or no follow-up of other chronic diseases. “They are the other victims of the pandemic, they have not been able to adequately monitor them,” says Fernando García, head of CSIF Health.
Among the reasons indicated by the unions is the structural and the conjunctural, with an explosion of cases of this wave that concentrates most of the pressure on primary care, the workforce reduced by the lack of reinforcements and the vacation situation. “It had not been planned and that’s where the overflow comes from,” criticises Pedrera. “The system has a lack of places and obvious investment and the Ministry has not presented the plan that should be in December,” adds García.
From the Valencian Society of Family and Community Medicine, its vice president Javier Blanquer points out that primary care is “today worse than a year ago, but three or four times worse than five years ago.” He says that the system currently has “four times the need” but there have been hardly any improvements to the templates. “The solutions should have come before, not remembering the health centres only when there are queues,” he says.
For her part, Eva Planas, Head of Health at UGT PV, recalls that the cutting of templates is “a matter inherited from many years ago” to which is added the “explosion of cases” of covid and the contact tracing of recent weeks. “Before there were 10 contacts for every positive, now, there may be up to 50,” she laments while pointing out that the symptoms resemble other respiratory diseases “that must also be monitored.”