MADRID (Reuters) – A Spanish court on Wednesday ordered a regional health authority to compensate numerous doctors for failing to protect them from the risk of infection during the first and deadliest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between March and May 2020, the Valencia Health Authority only provided medical professionals treating coronavirus patients in Alicante with one face mask per week, forcing them to reuse disposable protective equipment by early June, Judge Ricardo Barrio said.
The court, also in Alicante, ordered the agency to pay compensation between € 5,000 (US $ 5,680) and € 49,180 to each of the 153 doctors affected, with those infected with the virus receiving larger sums.
It ruled that the agency’s failure to provide individual protection “exposed all health workers to serious health and safety risks,” a court document said.
Victor Pedrera, general secretary of CESM-CV, a medical union in the Valencia region that brought the case, said the number of doctors infected with the virus was particularly high in the region.
Spain’s first COVID-19 epidemic was one of the deadliest in the world. In the two months from March 15, 2020, almost 28,000 coronavirus deaths were recorded, according to the global statistics monitor Worldometer.
CESM-CV is suing the same health agency in four other cities – Castellon, Benidorm, Elche and Valencia – on behalf of about 1,000 other doctors, Pedrera said, predicting the union’s case could become a landmark in Spain.
“We were the pioneers,” he said after Wednesday’s verdict. “Many (other) groups of doctors and health workers will also complain, I think.”
The decision of the Alicante court is open to appeal. A similar ruling by a court in Teruel in the neighboring region of Aragon was upheld on appeal in September 2020, Judge Barrio said.
($ 1 = 0.8801 euros)