Spanish soldiers dispatched to fight the coronavirus outbreak by disinfecting elderly care facilities found the bodies of several residents left in their beds, resulting in a nationwide investigation of such facilities, officials said.
Spanish authorities said there had been widespread reports of mistreatment and poor conditions at facilities, which caused the government during the weekend to order the army to start disinfecting them.
“The army, on some visits, has seen the elderly absolutely abandoned, when not dead, in their beds,” Defense Minister Margarita Robles said in an interview Monday with the television program Telecinco.
Spain’s top prosecutor announced an investigation into ”the alarming situation” of such facilities around the country, but authorities did not say how many bodies had been found. Media reports estimated dozens of cases.
The investigation comes after a week of news reports about deaths and infections at facilities in Madrid. Local officials said the Ice Palace ice rink in Madrid was being used as a temporary morgue to help address the number of deaths.
The granddaughter of a resident at the Monte Hermoso facility who had tested positive for the coronavirus and died Friday said the family believes there were other deaths there.
“They are letting them die,” said Paula Panera, whose grandmother Isabel Costales died.
Monte Hermoso officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last week, the Defensor del Paciente, an elder care watchdog association, filed a complaint to a Madrid court asking for an investigation of Monte Hermoso. The group also requested that the attorney general investigate all such facilities around the country.
“This situation cannot be tolerated in a democratic country,” Carmen Flores, the association’s president, said in a phone interview.
The health ministry said Wednesday the country had counted hundreds more deaths tied to the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases reached more than 49,500, with more than 3,600 deaths, officials said.
In Madrid, officials have created a makeshift hospital in a convention center to help with overcrowding. Hotels have also opened their rooms to hold less severely sick patients.
The Spanish government enforced a countrywide quarantine March 16 to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Residents are allowed to leave their homes only for necessities, including grocery shopping and going to the pharmacy.
Bernhard is a special correspondent.