Horrific scenes of death at Spanish nursing homes

AP
Army troops disinfecting nursing homes found, to their horror, some residents living in squalor among infectious bodies of people suspected of dying from the novel coronavirus.
AP

Spanish army troops disinfecting nursing homes found, to their horror, some residents living in squalor among infectious bodies of people suspected of dying from the novel coronavirus, authorities said.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles said the elderly residents were “completely left to fend for themselves, or even dead, in their beds.” She added the discovery over the weekend included several nursing homes but did not name them or say how many bodies were found. A judicial probe into the horrific discovery commenced on Tuesday.

As bodies piled up, Madrid took over a public skating rink as a makeshift morgue after the city facility overflowed. “This is a tough week,” Dr Fernando Simón, head of Spain’s health emergency center, told a daily news briefing.

Relatives of elderly people and retirement home workers expressed growing concern about the situation.

“With everything that is happening with the virus, this was a ticking bomb,” said Esther Navarro, whose 97-year-old Alzheimer’s-stricken mother lives at the Usera Seniors’ Center in Madrid, where soldiers found some of the bodies. “Now we are bracing ourselves for the worst possible outcome.”

A staff member at the nursing home said at least two bodies had to remain in the home for a day before funeral workers, working around the clock, arrived to take them away.

“We are very saddened, because the residents are almost like our own relatives due to the time we spend with them,” said José Manuel Martín.

Pedro Núñez said his father-in-law, Zoilo Patiño Lara, died from the virus at the nursing home on Saturday, although he was never diagnosed or taken to a hospital when symptoms appeared. The man, in his 80s and suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, was not removed until Sunday despite Núñez’s repeated calls to funeral homes.

Domusvi, the private company contracted by the Madrid regional government to run the Usera nursing home, confirmed two residents died there over the weekend. A company spokeswoman blamed the delay on funeral homes that failed to arrive quickly to take the bodies away.

While most people suffer only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing, from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, older adults and people with pre-existing health problems are susceptible to severe illness, including pneumonia.

Last week, the Spanish government announced it would take control of senior-care facilities from private companies and, as part of an unprecedented aid package, set aside 300 million euros (US$323 million) to add additional workers. The city government said bodies would be held at the ice-skating rink until they can be cremated or buried.

Spain’s death toll soared yesterday, rising to 3,434 after another 738 people died. The spike in fatalities means that across the globe, only Italy now has a higher death toll than Spain.


Special Reports
Top