Amnesty International denounced this Thursday through the report “Abandoned to their fate: The lack of protection and discrimination of the elderly in residences during the Covid-19 pandemic in Spain” that during the coronavirus violated at least five human rights of people living in nursing homes.
«In the residences the right to health, life and non-discrimination of the elderly has been violated. In addition, the authorities’ decisions have also had an impact on the right to private and family life and the right to have a dignified death, ”says Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International in Spain.
The report establishes that the denial of the right to health to older people is strongly linked to austerity measures and the under-financing of health in Spain. “The decade of health and social cuts has weakened the public health system, deteriorating access, affordability and quality of health care,” says the document.
It focuses on the residences of Madrid and Catalonia, where it ensures that the effects of this dismantling of the health system have been observed to a greater extent during the first wave in terms of nursing home care is referred to in different ways. “On the one hand the lack of protection of the personnel who worked there, which did not have PPE (personal protective equipment) or tests (PCR). And on the other, many of the residents did not have adequate health care, were excluded from hospital referral in a generalized way and did not receive the care they needed in the residences, despite the “medicalization” announced by the authorities. Likewise, many residents have been practically isolated for weeks with the outside world and with their families, ”says the report.
“It’s not an excuse”
The health emergency, they lament, “It is no excuse” for not being adequately cared for the elderly residents in these centers. “Human rights, including the right to health, cannot depend on the degree of dependency. The authorities must protect them, “says Beltrán.
Some of these issues, Amnesty International notes, continue to be present during the second wave. “Visits to relatives are still not fully guaranteed, which in practice continue to depend on the decision of each residence. In addition, the provisions in the referral protocols for Madrid and Catalonia, which recommend treating the elderly in nursing homes and not transferring them to hospitals, were discriminatory and have not yet been modified. As if that were not enough, sufficient personnel reinforcement measures have not yet been taken to meet the needs that may arise in the face of the existing high-pressure risks ”, the document states.
They also consider that one of the main reasons why the coronavirus had such an impact on nursing homes was the lack of protection of the personnel who work in them, which also led to a large number of workers’ casualties, which had repercussions in the care of the elderly.
«The combination of lack of personnel, resources and the forced isolation by suspicion of Covid-19 of residents produced an evident deterioration in residents not only physical, but also emotional. We have documented cases of residents who arrived at the hospital in a situation of dehydration and malnutrition; in very bad condition, “concludes Beltrán.
It also denounces that during the worst moment of the pandemic, older people were confined to their rooms for long periods, sometimes for several weeks at a time. «The restriction implied by the“ de facto ”confinement in the residences accompanied in most cases by confinement in their rooms for an indefinite time, added to the lack of effective supervision by the state authorities (Prosecutor’s Office) and regional authorities (services inspection) involved a violation of the rights to private and family life of the elderly simply because of their place of residence, “says the report, which calls for urgent measures to be taken so that this situation is not repeated.