“Enough of business with our elders”

The coronavirus pandemic continues to subside and in some cases it is already a simple memory. It is difficult, however, to forget what happened in the residences in 2020. 20,000 people died there according to official records – although the organizations estimate that there were 30,000 – during the worst months of the health crisis. Some political decisions and the dire conditions were terminal for many residents. The associations that bring together family members and users have decided to mobilize, to wield a “enough is enough!” to these conditions and request a new care model based on public protection and the increase in care personnel.

Hundreds of people have crossed Gran Vía this Saturday, epicenter of the capital in the city, with a resounding message against the privatization of centers for the elderly and dependents. "To steal, today they call privatize." “Dignity and respect”. “Human rights to the elderly”. “Without nurses there is no care”. They are the slogans printed on the banners that paraded through the central Madrid street, to which people from all over Spain have arrived, linked to different groups of relatives of residents and users of these centers. The demonstration has started from the Plaza de España and has reached the Plaza del Callao, where the journalist Rosa María Artal will read a manifesto entitled 'Basta Ya', with a compendium of the measures that are demanded from the autonomous communities, in which they are delegated dependency skills.

“For our elders!” shouted a group of people a few hours before the start of the march, when they met another protester in Plaza de España. They carried Andalusian flags and posters with the faces of their relatives. A girl was excited to see her reach so many people. "There are many mixed feelings, there are many years of fighting," she explained to this newspaper with misty eyes. Her name is Esther Pascual, who together with another group of relatives founded the ADBAR association in the Valencian Community. She did it when she admitted her mother to a nursing home and she was shocked at the conditions she saw. "How can it be that they go to bed without dinner, that there are outbreaks of bedbugs, that there are no health personnel?" She asks herself.

A few months after admission, his mother lost 30 kg, he says: “They tell you: they die because they are older. No, she's sorry, they'll die when they play, but you can't speed up that process. It was not my mother's turn to die." His mother passed away last year, after going through two residences and the pandemic. “How do we turn this model around?” she questions.

The mobilization has been convened by the State Platform of Organizations of Relatives and Users of Residences for the Elderly and for the Disabled, an entity that brings together the main associations in this sector, such as the 5+1 Coordinator, Rede or Pladigmare. In a letter addressed to citizens, published a few days ago, the organizers called for a large demonstration to denounce the situation that is experienced daily in residences and to ask the autonomous communities for "a change of attitude and mood" to undertake a regulatory change that regulates the operation of these centers.

In that letter, the platform listed the main deficiencies of the current residence system: “The lack of sufficient and qualified personnel to meet the multiple needs of residents; the deficiency of medical care; the abusive practice of physical and chemical restraints; the absent functioning of the inspection services; the continuous violations of regulations by the operating companies; scarce and poor nutrition in nutritional values; the absence of public initiative for the benefit of a consolidated network of usurious private companies; extremely poor or abandoned assistance and care services, etc.” All this, they denounced in the letter "is the unacceptable reflection of the current model of residences".

Precisely this week, in a plenary session of the City Council of San Sebastián de los Reyes, Mariano Turégano, 82, recounted the conditions in which he and his companions find themselves in the Moscatelares residence, in San Sebastián de los Reyes, facilities that depend on the Community of Madrid. “In our rooms we have spent a summer of 40 degrees because the Community of Madrid looks the other way when it comes to seeing for the health and well-being of its citizens. Some of our colleagues have been hospitalized this summer with high levels of dehydration that aggravate or trigger other pathologies”, he explained excitedly.

Paulino Campos, one of the spokesmen for La Plataforma and president of REDE in Galicia, stated in statements to this newspaper that Mariano's is not a unique case. “Marianos there are every day. The issue is how do we as a society allow this situation to occur, ”he asks. “Why are we torturing older people and family members as well? It is not acceptable, that is why we called the demonstration”, he argues.

A new model of residences

Last June 28, the Ministry of Health and the dependency councilors of the autonomous communities reached an agreement on the criteria to guarantee the quality of dependency centers and services. That document establishes a period of several months for the communities to approve their new regulations to regulate the operation of the centers. The Platform believes that this is an essential moment to demand from the different regional governments "a change of attitude to face the public debate on the regulatory framework and the model" of residences and, in general, of dependency.

The associations grouped around the platform believe that the agreement reached this summer falls short, does not guarantee a change in the model and does not ensure "dignified and quality care". "They have not taken into consideration a large part of the priority demands of family members and users," regrets the letter sent to citizens. For example, the Agreement establishes a minimum ratio of 43 caregivers for every 100 users, while the platform's request was to raise that ratio to one worker for every four residents in the morning and afternoon shifts and from 1 to 10 in the at night. "The figure approved in the agreement perpetuates one of the great dramas that drag the residences: the flagrant lack of personnel", they lament. Nor is it taken into account, they add, the sufficient reinforcement of the inspectors' staff, nor are representation bodies established with the participation of family members.

Another of the main points that the associations requested and that have not been taken into account is the creation of public residences to, they argue, "adequately combat the obscene privatization of the care sector for the elderly and disabled." “The public is absent and that explains part of what is happening. If the public administration disappears, we do not have the possibility of scrutinizing what is happening from the public service and the citizenry. You have left a wide land for these evildoers to enter, who are only interested in making money,” says Campos.

Finally, the organizations regret that a commitment to end the macro-residences "nor the spirit of overcrowding that they transmit" has not been reflected in that agreement. “Construction of buildings with 120 beds will continue to be allowed, when we have proposed that the amount does not exceed 60 beds per center,” they point out, while rejecting that there is no requirement on the number of minimum individual beds that must exist.

200,000 signatures before Congress

Campos explains that one of the initiatives that they have promoted in the face of this mobilization is the collection of more than 200,000 signatures that they are going to present before the Congress of Deputies, a symbolic gesture, since the dependency powers are transferred to the autonomous communities , but which they hope will serve as a wake-up call for all parliamentarians. The signatures are actually a donation of those collected on the Change.org platform by journalist Manuel Rico and professor Fernando Flores to ask the State Attorney General's Office for an investigation into what happened in the residences during the pandemic and for Congress to create a truth commission for the same purpose. To the rubrics collected on that platform those collected by Amnesty International are addedwhich also carried out a campaign in this regard and has also decided to donate them to the cause.

“The Congress of Deputies should have investigated and analyzed what happened in the residences. We want to ask these firms to analyze, to investigate what has happened, which is still uninvestigated and is going to be falsely closed, ”explains Campos, who values ​​an investigation of this type not only for reasons of truth. , reparation and justice, but because it can be a positive tool to better prepare for the next pandemic. “For example, to know what percentage of individual rooms is necessary. It is a drawer that the highest number of deaths was in the residences, which was worse in the macro-residences and in those with more double rooms. It's a box but you have to prove it with empirical data ”, he maintains.

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