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Spanish Doctors Left Without P.P.E. Early in Pandemic Win Settlement

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A court in Spain has ordered a regional government to compensate doctors who worked on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic without adequate protective gear like masks, gowns or surgical gloves.

The ruling by a regional court in Valencia, in eastern Spain, was the first to be issued in a raft of lawsuits brought by doctors and nurses, who have said that when they confronted the coronavirus in early 2020, they were sometimes not supplied with protective equipment, or had to make their own basic gear. Some medical professionals in Spain have described the working conditions during the first wave of virus infections as “kamikaze.”

By the end of March 2020, at least 12,000 Spanish health care workers were infected with Covid-19, and the government had declared a state of emergency.

The judge in Valencia ordered the regional authorities to pay amounts ranging from 5,000 euros (about $5,700) to 49,000 euros (about $56,000) to the 153 doctors represented in the lawsuit, all of whom were working in the province of Alicante. The largest awards are for doctors who had to be hospitalized after becoming infected while working without proper protective equipment. The ruling, dated Jan. 7, was made public this week.

The judge’s ruling highlighted several safety flaws, including that the doctors were given only one face mask per week and had to reuse gowns. The ruling also noted that hospitals kept protective gear locked up. The equipment shortages lasted until June 2020, three months after the pandemic took hold in Spain.

The regional health ministry in Valencia said it would appeal the ruling.

The region faces four similar lawsuits about the shortage of protective gear that are also under review, involving hundreds of other plaintiffs.

Spain’s judiciary has been flooded with lawsuits related to shortcomings in its health care system during the pandemic, including suits over cancers that went undetected while hospitals were focused on coping with Covid-19.

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