Spain’s medical community has scored a major victory after an Alicante court ordered the Valencian government to compensate doctors with up to 49,000 euros each for working without personal protection during the devastating first months of the pandemic.
The lawsuit by the doctors union is the first to be won in Spain, whose health system was on the brink when COVID-19 first broke out.
“This ruling is ground-breaking in Spain,” Dr. Víctor Pedrera, general secretary of the CESM-CV Valencia Medical College, who filed the lawsuit, told The Associated Press.
Pedrera, a family doctor in Alicante, said he contracted COVID-19 whilst dealing with patients, shortly after the virus struck in Spain in March 2020 and spent two months at home “where he was very ill, and with no idea of what was being done for treatment.””
The Alicante court said a lack of personal protection suits had created “a serious safety and health danger for all health workers, especially for doctors due to their direct exposure.”
The ruling said that the region’s health administration failed to meet its duty to protect the doctors “from the moment it knew of the existence of COVID-19 and, in particular after the declaration of a national state of emergency.”
The verdict comes as Spain’s health care system is once more being strained by the new wave of infections driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.
The government was told to compensate each of the 153 doctors who filed the claim with up to €49,000.
Doctors who were forced to work without personal protection suits but did not get infected will receive €5,000 each. The compensation increases to €15,000 for doctors who were forced to isolate, and €35,000 for those infected but did not need hospital care.
Medical staff who were hospitalised with coronavirus after lacking proper equipment will receive €49,000, the judge said.
Although the Valencia government has said that it will appeal the judgement the Community President, Ximo Puig, apologised to the medical staff while saying that the initial impact of the pandemic was “completely unexpected.”
Pedrera said more claims are coming from other groups of doctors in Valencia and he expects even more lawsuits to come from health workers across the whole of Spain.