COVID-19: MSF response in Spain

According to the latest official figures, the situation in Spain continues to be aggravated with a death toll reaching 2,696 people and with 40,000 infected; 5,400 of whom are health workers representing more than 1 in 10 of total confirmed cases. Leveraging its experience and expertise in managing epidemics in contexts where health and social care systems are fragile or unable to cope with such situations, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is stepping up its COVID-19 response by adopting a three-tiered approach.

Firstly, MSF has reached out to national and local health authorities in view of providing them with strategic advice and technical support on strategies to manage this public health crisis.

“Our goal is twofold: to help relieve the pressure on hospitals and health centres so that they can focus on serving the most severe patients, and to strengthen the protection of our elders, one of the most vulnerable groups in this epidemic”, said Dr. David Noguera, president of MSF Spain. “We are seeking to share our experience so we can act in the interest of those who are most vulnerable”.

One of the first priorities is to tackle the infection within healthcare structures and managing cases in a manner that would contribute to reducing the risk for patients with other pathologies from getting infected.

Decongesting hospitals and healthcare centres


The second approach is therefore focused on decongesting hospitals and healthcare centres by setting up temporary hospitals for mild and moderate cases so that ICUs can focus on assisting severe cases.

Following the green light from Madrid’s Regional Government, MSF set up a 100-bed temporary hospital to accommodate moderate patient cases in one of the pavilions of the University of Alcalá de Henares, 31 kilometres (km) at east of the capital. The case management will be done by the staff of the nearby Hospital Príncipe de Asturia and this will help relieve the pressure on the hospital’s emergency department where severe cases that require hospitalization in the ICU will be sent to. Similarly, another temporary hospital was set up in a sports centre nearby the Hospital Severo Ochoa in Leganés, 11 km southwest of Madrid. Discussions with local health authorities are also ongoing in identifying other locations to set up similar spaces in Catalanuya.

Thirdly, outside of healthcare facilities, MSF is providing advice to the steering committees of nursing homes for the elderly regarding the risk assessment and implementation of hygiene and protection measures to reduce transmission within residences, as well as improving case management.

All of these interventions, in coordination with national and local health authorities, are essential to increase the capacity of case management, reduce mortality and prevent infection.