A group of prestigious Spanish scientists and researchers has requested an “independent and impartial evaluation by a panel of international and national experts” on the management of coronavirus in Spain, according to a letter published in the Lancet magazine.
The research, according to this group of twenty scientists who are part of the world scientific elite, among which are the doctor of biochemistry and coordinator of the CSIC research groups on the pandemic Margarita del Val; the former Basque health councilor and former Obama adviser Rafael Bengoa; the researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Helena Legido-Quigley or University of Toronto researcher Carles Muntaner should focus “on the activities of the Central Government and the governments of the 17 autonomous communities”, and should include “three areas: governance and decision-making, scientific and technical advice, and capacity operational “.
“Furthermore,” they say, “the social and economic circumstances that have contributed to making Spain more vulnerable, including the growing inequalities, must be taken into account.”
The signing researchers believe that this evaluation “should not be conceived as an instrument to distribute blame. Rather, it should identify areas in which public health and the health and social care system should be improved.”
Spain needs a “comprehensive evaluation of the health and social assistance systems to prepare the country for new waves of COVID-19 or future pandemics, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and lessons learned.”
In the letter, these researchers wonder how it is possible that Spain, which “has one of the best performing health systems in the world”, is now in the position against the coronavirus in which it finds itself with more than 300,000 cases and 28,498 deaths, “more than 50,000 infected healthcare workers and nearly 20,000 deaths in nursing homes.”
“Possible explanations point to a lack of preparedness for a pandemic,” with weak surveillance systems, low capacity for PCR tests, and a shortage of personal protective equipment and critical care equipment, they note in the letter.
But also, they add, to “a late reaction of central and regional authorities, slow decision-making processes, high levels of mobility and migration of the population, little coordination between central and regional authorities, little dependence on scientific advice, aging of the population, vulnerable groups that experience social and health inequalities and lack of preparation in nursing homes. ”
According to the signatories, “these problems were exacerbated by the effects of a decade of austerity that had exhausted the health workforce, and reduced public health and the capacities of the health system.”
Spanish researchers indicate that, although this type of evaluation is not common in Spain, several institutions and countries, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Sweden, have accepted the need for such a review as a means of learning from the past and prepare for the future.
“We encourage the Spanish Government to view this assessment as an opportunity that could lead to better preparedness for a pandemic, prevent premature deaths and build a resilient health system, with scientific evidence at its core,” they conclude.