Pandemic forces Spain’s hospitals to cancel 570,000 surgeries

Pandemic forces Spain’s hospitals to cancel 570,000 surgeries
Thousands of surgeries were cancelled in Spain in 2020. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP
Thousands of patients across Spain have had their surgeries cancelled due to the amount of pressure that has been put on hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many patients said that they had been waiting months for their surgeries, only for hospitals to suddenly cancel them without any warning or explanation.

According to a report by the healthcare consulting firm IQVIA, which analysed data from 100 public hospitals in Spain in 2020, there were 18 percent fewer scheduled surgeries carried out compared to 2019.

This percentage is equivalent to 570,000 fewer surgeries than those performed in 2019. Looking at data from the Ministry of Health, this figure is close to the number of people on the surgical waiting list in a normal year.

According to the latest report from the Information System on Waiting Lists in the National Health System, on December 31st, 2020, there were 685,175 patients awaiting surgical intervention.

The consulting firm has calculated the percentage drop in scheduled surgeries month by month since 2020, compared to the same periods in 2019.

What they found was that “despite the fact that hospitals have been progressively recovering the volume of scheduled surgeries with respect to the same months in 2019, the impact suffered during the first wave of Covid-19, shows drops between 40 to 80 percent in scheduled surgeries compared to the equivalent month of 2019, and this has ended up bringing down the global annual figure”.

The report also showed that the drop in scheduled surgical activity, which ranged between five and 25 percent, depending on the hospital, was independent of the percentage of Covid-19 admissions it received – from five to 40 percent.

Director of Healthcare at IQVIA Carles Illa said: “There were hospitals who were seeing what was happening in other centres and closed operating rooms before it was necessary since they all decrease their programmed activities regardless of their number of Covid-19 patients”.

Another fallout from the pandemic on healthcare was the number of delayed diagnoses. Per IQVIA data based on more than one million inhabitants, the number of new diagnoses fell by 25 percent throughout 2020, compared to the number of patients who were diagnosed in 2019.

This means that one in four new diagnoses were not made in 2020, compared to previous years. This percentage would be equivalent to “more than 14 million new diagnoses not detected”, according to the report.

The report also broke the categories down. Oncology for example saw a 13 percent drop in new diagnoses, diseases of the nervous system saw 26 percent fewer diagnoses, and respiratory pathologies saw the greatest drop of 45 percent.

“Patients who have not been diagnosed and treated at the rate they should have been in 2020 will enter into the healthcare system with a much more deteriorated condition, and in some cases, more advanced stages,” the consultancy warned.

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