Local Daily News 3rd January

Omicron collapses the health centres in the province of Alicante: hundreds of patients and no appointments until mid-January

The sixth wave of the pandemic has hit health centres like a bomb. Primary Care was already affected has to face in recent weeks a flood of patients with coronavirus symptoms, an endless list of diagnostic tests to do, sick leave to be processed, close contacts to call… In recent weeks work has tripled, according to doctors and nurses from health centres, and it has exploded in these last four days, when all the infections from Christmas dinners and meals are already emerging. All with half of the staff on Christmas holidays and without Health having substitutes. Doctors and paediatricians warn that covid occupies 80% of their time these days, so they have had to put other tasks aside, such as monitoring chronic patients.

Many health centres do not have appointments until mid-January. “We have made the decision not to open the agendas until the 13th of January because we cannot cope,” said a doctor at a health centre in the city of Alicante this week, where these days nurses only attend homes and urgent cases. The rest is taken up by covid: PCR, antigen tests, vaccines… in diagnostic tests alone, some 500 daily are being carried out in this centre in recent days. The emergencies with suspected cases of coronavirus do not decrease either. “The other day we had 117 patients with respiratory problems and only two emergency doctors arrived to attend them all morning. Do the math.”

In other departments, such as Alcoy, “the covid reinforcement staff is supplying the Christmas pay days since there is no nursing on the stock market,” they explain from the Satse nursing union. Chronic care programs have also had to be suspended in this department due to the avalanche of users demanding antigen tests and PCR, “many of them without symptoms or with mild symptoms and entire families to be tested”.

Overload also in the department of Marina Baixa. According to information from Satse, the health centres in this region are overloaded with work, with uncovered professionals and a very high workload.

In the last week, coronavirus infections have skyrocketed in the province of Alicante by 46%, the result of dinners and meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas. The omicron variant has sped everything up. It takes less time to get infected, just three days compared to 10 of the previous ones, and it infects a greater number of people, since it is up to 70% more contagious. The good news is that it is much milder, since it does not affect internal organs and only the mucous membranes. However, these mild cases are falling on Primary Care and on a staff of tired and demoralized doctors and nurses.

“We are exhausted because we do not see an end to this and we also have to deal with the inaction of politicians, who in the face of this sixth wave have only made masks obligatory,” laments Eva Suárez, paediatrician and spokesperson for the Foro de Primary Care Physicians, who predict that “the January slope is going to be terrible.” And the flu epidemic is just around the corner. Paediatricians are also spending 80% of their time dealing with all the coronavirus casuistry, “all with a good part of the vacation staff and without people to replace us.” Suárez warns of the consequences that this situation can have.

In the consultations of family doctors this week attendance records are being broken, with professionals who have come to see up to 70 patients a day. “Everything is practically covid, the rest had to be left until another time,” says Víctor Pedrera, general secretary of the Medical Union in the Valencian Community and family doctor, who regrets that a large part of all this work they are facing is bureaucratic, especially with the processing of sick leave. According to Pedrera, the queues in front of health centres will not disappear until Health does not hire more family doctors. “The reinforcement contracts have not been enough, because the number of doctors it includes is very small.”

This unprecedented saturation that exists in Primary Care means that every day there are professionals who go home with the fear that a serious case will escape them, between so many calls and so many appointments of patients with mild symptoms. “We got to have three patients summoned at the same time, the demand has tripled, the request for tests also and everything with fewer staff,” says Javier Blanquer, vice president of the Valencian Society of Family Medicine. Furthermore, on many occasions, it is necessary to deal with patients with less patience than might be expected in these circumstances. “People complain that we keep them waiting and they don’t realize that we are not superheroes.” Faced with this collapse, Blanquer warns that Primary Care has disappeared. The losers, “patients with other illnesses and anxiety problems whose attention is diminished.”

On the part of Nursing, the feeling of helplessness is the same. “There are people who were hired as a covid reinforcement and who do not plan to renew their contract now in January because they cannot take it anymore. All despite the fact that it hurts them on the job market,” warns Emilia Guevara, secretary of Union Action for the nursing union Satse. Guevara’s diagnosis of the situation is also very pessimistic. “The health system of the province is in a critical situation of overload, saturation and healthcare tension that hurts Nursing professionals and the public as a whole. Specifically, the nursing situation in Primary Care centers has worsened over the months until it once again found itself at a dead end”.

For the president of the Community Nursing Association, José Ramón Martínez Riera, “Primary Care has been neglected for many years, suffering a cut in budget and staff.” The situation of collapse that is being experienced these days in health centres, regrets this professional, makes us return to a model based only on treating the disease, leaving aside the part of promotion, so important at this level of care and community “aimed at empowering the population.”

A raging fire burns hundreds of tires at an Aspe factory

A virulent fire started Sunday afternoon at the Insa Turbo tire factory in Aspe. The flames started around 3:00 p.m. in one of the industrial unit’s silos, calcining hundreds of wheels and generating a large column of black smoke that, due to its density, forced to alert Civil Aviation, since the area is crossed by an air corridor bound for the Miguel Hernández Airport in Alicante-Elche.

Members of the Elche Fire Station travelled to the site to try to stop the advance of the flames, which caused material damage in an area delimited between concrete walls, which made it difficult for the fire to spread to the rest of the company’s facilities in the large plant located on the Cruz del Pecado road, next to kilometre 5 of the N-325, the regional road that connects Aspe and Novelda.

The firefighters were alerted to the fire at 3:15 p.m. and immediately organized an action plan, which was also joined by troops from the Elda, Crevillent, San Vicente and Villena parks. In the operation, 30 firefighters and 12 vehicles were deployed, in addition to the Aspe and Novelda Civil Guard, Seprona, Aspe and Novelda Police and the Traffic Civil Guard.

The Aspe City Council issued a statement informing the population that it was out of risk due to the possible toxicity of the gases emitted by the smoke column, which was visible from Elda and Elche. However, the City Council recommended keeping the windows closed and staying away from the place as much as possible.

The fall in the birth rate in the province of Alicante further accelerates the aging of the population

The fall in the birth rate that has indirectly been caused by the coronavirus health crisis has contributed to further accelerating the aging of the population in the province of Alicante. What until now was a fairly well-founded assumption has been corroborated by the latest data on births and demographic indicators published in recent weeks by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). An average of 134.26 over 65s for every 100 under 16s already reside in the district. Furthermore, the aging index has had the highest year-on-year growth in more than two decades.

The 13,334 births registered in 2020 are not a historical minimum, since the figure was significantly lower between 1994 and 1998. However, the birth rate is, of only 7.06 births per thousand inhabitants. And so is the fertility rate: in 2020 only 32.66 births were registered for every thousand women between 15 and 49 years old. This index is now half that of four decades ago, although what is truly significant is that it has dropped 12 points since 2008, and that since 2018 it is continuously beating historical lows.

In parallel, the increase in longevity is contributing to an increasing number of older people, and the lower birth rate contributes to these groups having more relative weight over the population as a whole. Likewise, in the province of Alicante we must add an external factor, the immigration of so-called foreign residents on the coastline, which to a large extent are also higher. All these circumstances have favoured the fact that the proportion of those over 65 over those under 16 has doubled in less than three decades: in 1994 the aging index was 66.18.

Right now, 20.46% of the inhabitants of the province of Alicante are over 65 years old, and 2.8% are over 85 years old. In 2001, these percentages were 15.83% and 1.3%, respectively, which gives an idea of ​​how the population has been progressively aging. This is also seen in other indicators such as the median age of the inhabitants of the province: in women it is already 46.07 years, while that of men is 44.24.

It does not seem that the situation will change in the short term, based on the birth figures in 2021 that have been known so far, highly conditioned by the coronavirus pandemic. Until October, according to the latest estimates by the INE, 11,009 births had been registered in the province, 2.68% less than in 2020. That last month, the births were 1,221, a number slightly lower than in the same month of the previous year, but that implies a decrease of 13.77% when compared to the same period in 2017.

The data on births in hospitals offered by the Ministry of Health on Saturday, the 1st of January, which include until November 2021, abound in that descending line. In the health centres of the province there have been 10,577 births – it is logical that there is a certain gap with the INE data, which is measured by the residence of the newborn and its mother, which may be different from the place where the delivery occurs, compared to 10,983 in the same period of 2020. That is, there has been 3.7% less, largely due to all the health and economic uncertainty generated by the pandemic that still lasts.

The health department with the most births between January and November 2021 was that of the General Hospital of Alicante and the one with the least that of Alcoy, with 1,745 and 750, respectively. However, in proportion to its population, the highest birth figures corresponded to the areas of Elche-Crevillent, Orihuela and Elche-General Hospital, where 1,236, 1,156 and 1,075 boys and girls were born, respectively. At the opposite extreme, the lowest rates were in Sant Joan d’Alacant, the Marina Baixa and Elda; in absolute terms there were 861, 821 and 993 births. Finally, in Dénia hospital there were 931 and 1,009 in Torrevieja.

More than 31,000 temporary contracts become permanent in the province of Alicante in 2021

The province of Alicante continues to support the temporary nature of its contracts, but there are indicators that are improving. In the accumulated from January to November 2021, according to the data published by the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy, the total of contracts converted into permanent was 31,238, which represents 49.19% of the total of permanent contracts, which are 63,496, the best record in percentage terms in at least four years.

This figure is much higher than in 2020, when 25,154 contracts became permanent, 47.14% of the total, which was 53,360. A fact that reflects the burden posed by the coronavirus for the provincial productive businesses, with confinements, business closures and export stoppages.

The best data were recorded in the years 2019 and 2018. In the first, 34,976 people signed a permanent contract, being 48.66% of the annual total, which stood at 71,867. While the second added 34,925 conversions, being 46.23% of the total of permanent contracts in that year, 75,543. 730 days with a high conversion percentage but they also maintain a high temporality, with 601,522 temporary contracts in 2018 and 611,097 in 2019. Compared to 421,375 in 2020 and 476,095 in the 11 months of 2021.

Regarding the data previously explained, the general secretary of UGT L’Alacantí – La Marina, Yaissel Sánchez, denounces the high temporary nature of the contracts supported by the provincial market, highlighting, in addition, that Spain is the country that has the most temporary status jobs of all Europe. Delving further into the data, from the UGT they affirm that the provincial fabric of Alicante “mostly maintains a business culture in which they prefer the use of precariousness as an instrument of absolute flexibility, which enables the continuous change of working conditions and the termination of labour relations in a discretionary and unilateral manner”.

For CC OO, their reading of these statistics reflects a fact. “The data cannot hide the cold labour reality that the province has endured for decades. A situation that we have systematically denounced, month by month, the extremely high precariousness, temporality and job rotation suffered by a province increasingly dependent on tourism, hospitality, services and the countryside, the classic sectors of temporality,” emphasizes Francisco García , Secretary General of the Workers Commissions l’Alacantí-Les Marines.

Breaking down these data by sex, most of the conversions correspond to men in the four years analysed. The figures point to the male gender as the beneficiaries of the majority of conversions to permanent contracts, suggesting a reality, “it is they who are hired the most, with the exception of part-time contracts which, mostly being permanent and temporary, in this type of day they have a woman’s face,” emphasizes Yaissel Sánchez. Women lead part-time contracts. Although they have already entered the world of work, conciliation is not always a fact and they are still the ones who sacrifice part of their working life to be able to attend to domestic issues.

If we analyse hiring by sectors, the year that just ended concentrated the highest number of conversions in Services, 21,675 (69.38%), followed by Industry, with 4,933 (15.79%). It should be noted, in contrast to previous years, the rise in hiring in Agriculture, being 3.24% in 2021, when in the previous three years it did not reach 2%.

The Services sector continues to lead the recruitment in 2020, 2019 and 2018. Agriculture continues to be the last sector, despite the considerable increase in 2021. The penultimate place is occupied by Construction and the third to last, Industry.

In this sense, the data suggest that the age of the people who sign a permanent contract “ranges from 30 to 45 years old”, representing around 42% of all hires. From the UGT they claim “the error on the part of the companies to promote the precariousness of employment, who generally prefer to contract temporary contracts due to production circumstances, instead of promoting the indefinite contract, granting the market and the people a job stability”.



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