September 19, 2020

Health admits that the low quality of data from communities on deaths in residences has prevented giving figures

The Ministry of Health presented in a telematic meeting held last week with the representatives of the autonomous communities global figures of deaths in nursing homes since the pandemic began, but acknowledged that they are of a “quality” that “makes it difficult to disseminate” . It has been denounced by the Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services and can be read in the document they showed, to which has had access. Health attributes the low quality mainly to two reasons: the difficulties of the notification system imposed by the Ministry, “an unfriendly platform for registration”; and the inconsistency of the data presented by the regional governments, some with “inconsistent dates”, errors in sums or reports “with the absence of data on causes of death”.

The Ministry of Health, in an order of March 23, established an information system by which the communities had to send them data on the social health centers. It was established that they had to do it every Tuesday and Friday before 21:00, with aggregated and accumulated data, and provided them with a platform for this. The regional health departments had to send, among other numbers, the number of total residents in their territory and the number of deaths from one cause or another –COVID-19 confirmed, compatible symptoms, or others–, also differentiating by operated or non-operated centers . The Order was implemented until June 21, ending the state of alarm, and the summary was made until June 20, the final date reflected in the document.

However, since March 23, the Ministry led by Salvador Illa has not published official data about how many people have died in these centers, generally badly hit by COVID-19. As the Association says, “the report comes to recognize that one of the Autonomous Communities has never notified the data and that some have not done so with the required frequency or did so after the deadline.” Two communities have only reported the data once. They were not specified at the meeting.

In the document they specified that the death rate, which is also cited in a note by the Association of Directors and Managers, was 27,350 people in total from March 23 to June 20, 2020, the sum of what was given by all the communities. 32.9% of them, 9,003 people, had a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. 35.9%, 9,830, had symptoms compatible with COVID-19. The rest, 31.2%, is attributed to other causes. But Health admits that these figures cannot be consolidated, there is “lack of purification” in them

It is also extracted from the accumulated data that in Spain there are more than 340,000 users of residences in 7,756 centers. 5%, 391, have been intervened by the ministries as far as we have had a pandemic, and 2,071 people have died in these. The Ministry also maintains that in many of the reports of the councils the cause of the intervention was not specified. Those responsible had to choose between four options to justify the file: due to an increase in deaths (this was specified in 18), due to the lack of means (84), for not being able to manage the bodies (only 1) and “other reasons” (what which was alleged in 106).

The Ministry goes so far as to say that this number, 27,350 deaths, is of a great “discrepancy” with that obtained by other sources, which would speak of 32,843 people having died in residences. They argue that the communities have made a “great effort”, despite everything. For the future, both a “current and accurate” census of residences and residents and a “reliable” information system that meets the requirements of the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and better “intersectoral coordination” would be needed.

Among other errors, the Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services denounces that the information criteria were not clear enough: “The data on deaths in residences is not the same as those of deceased residents.” “Serve as an example,” they add, “that, in some communities, residents who died in hospitals did not register as deceased residents,” and others did. For the Association, the residences have suffered the “abandonment” of both the health departments and the Ministry itself, having not intervened before due to the lack of information. José Manuel Ramírez, its president, sees the matter as “very serious” because it implies recognizing “that nobody knows anything” about what happened this spring in the residences and how many people died in them. He announces that they are going to ask that the communities that have not provided data “do not transfer the social fund” reserved for reconstruction after the COVID-19 wave “until they provide them”. For him it is “incomprehensible” that at this point, once the emergency is over, a “unified” and accurate data collection has not yet begun.


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