Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Humanity Collapses

In September last year, a decree was issued that was designed, it was said, to ensure the sustainability of the Spanish national health service. This sustainability was to be guaranteed by removing rights to health care to immigrants without proper documentation and a health card. Illegals, in all likelihood. The implementation of this decree has claimed its first victim. A 28-year-old Senegalese man died last week of tuberculosis because he was refused treatment at Inca Hospital.

Let's not beat around the bush. This is a total disgrace and a savage indictment of the Spanish political class. I know there will be those, because I can already hear their voices, who will argue that illegals, those without papers, those who don't pay taxes, etc., etc. cannot expect to benefit from the health service if they don't contribute to it. This is a point of view with which I am not totally unsympathetic. But a man has died. This is the point. By any standards of humanity, this should not be allowed to happen.

The death of the man, Alpha Pam, has brought forth different versions of how he was dealt with by the local health service. The Balearics health service maintains that he did not take documentation from the centre of primary attention (which presumably means Can Picafort's health centre, where the health service says he had been attended to) when he went to Inca Hospital and so the necessary tests couldn't be carried out. There are other versions, such as a further one on behalf of the regional government which states that he was misdiagnosed in Can Picafort, and he had apparently been to the health centre there on several occasions over several months. The group Médicos del Mundo (MDM) insist that he wasn't attended to in Inca because of a lack of papers and health card. It also insists that he wasn't assigned to a family doctor and that when, on one of his various visits to try and get assistance, was told to go to emergencies in Inca when the health centre was informed that he had relatives who had been hospitalised with TB.

So, who's telling the truth? Not that this really matters to Alpha Pam any longer. For one reason or another, he is dead. If his death is, as MDM believe, the result of the "politics of austerity", then let us wonder at what it is going to cost to fly his body back to Senegal. Someone will have to pay, and it probably won't be his family.

Any number of organisations, in addition to MDM, have been weighing in with their views. They include the college of lawyers in the Balearics, which has said that his death is evidence of discrimination and that Pam's basic dignity, which should be assured under the Spanish Constitution, was not respected. The Catholic Church has also expressed its concern, the Bishop of Guadalajara having made a similar point about basic rights as the lawyers. The church's charity, Caritas, has accused the Spanish Government of failing to guarantee fundamental rights. Let it be noted that these criticisms are from an institution, the Catholic Church, which is normally a strong supporter of the Partido Popular. They are not criticisms of the rabid left.

Because of the national government's decree, Alpha Pam's death is a national matter, but it is also very much a Mallorcan matter. The Balearics health minister, Martí Sansaloni (you'll remember him, because he was the third appointment to a post that had been notable for its revolving door), has been attacked for his heartlessness over the matter. His resignation has been called for and there is a suggestion that legal proceedings should be initiated against the minister for failing to ensure emergency treatment regardless of circumstances.

It should be noted that the September decree did not exclude from medical care children, pregnant women and those whose conditions are emergencies, even if they have no health card or papers. Something, therefore, has gone wrong in the case of Alpha Pam, because he was an emergency. And it should be further noted that, regardless of Pam's status, tuberculosis is contagious. As such, therefore, a lack of treatment represented a health risk to others.

The generally held view is that the regional government is trying to squirm its way out of what is not a simple embarrassment; it is reprehensible. If it tries to avoid its responsibility, it, and by extension the national government, are revealed as more than just heartless. They are inhumane.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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