• Between April 2020 and September 2021, the Ministry of Social Rights financed 34 residences to welcome elderly people from other nursing homes sick with coronavirus, but more than 80% of the places remained empty

  • After the second and third waves of the pandemic, Catalan residences added 11,023 covid infections and 2,007 deaths

A total of 7.8 million euros to pay for a service that, in the end, was not used. This is the balance left by the ‘buffer’ plan devised by the Generalitat to avoid infections and deaths in Catalan nursing homes by transferring elderly people infected with coronavirus to another center. The Catalan Government disbursed that amount between April 2020 and September 2021 to 34 centers for the reservation of places that were never occupied, according to data requested by EL PERIÓDICO from the Transparency Portal of the Catalan administration. At that time, the second and third waves of the pandemic took the lives of 2,007 residents. Only 18.8% of the total number of vacancies contracted by emergency route, which represented an expense of 2.7 million euros. One of the nursing homes that offered this service, now investigated for mistreatment of residents, did not receive a single patient, although it charged almost 84,000 euros from public coffers.

In April 2020, when nursing homes registered deaths and hundreds of people infected by the coronavirus pandemic, the ‘president’ Quim Torra decided to transfer the powers of the nursing homes to the Ministry of Health. Then the ‘buffer’ plan was devised, which consisted of transferring mildly infected covid patients to other reference nursing homes that had places available to accommodate the sick elderly. In this way, the ‘buffer’ centers made it easier for the smaller nursing homes, with greater difficulty in isolating and containing the virus, to remain free of the virus and continue their care tasks with residents who were not infected. At first, private clinics or residences not yet inaugurated were set up. Subsequently, these services were extended to thirty residences for the elderly, according to data held by EL PERIÓDICO. Some family associations complained about this decision and lamented that this caused the spread of outbreaks in healthy patients.

To finger for the emergency

The ‘buffer’ centers were awarded through an emergency resolution supported by the state of alarm decree, and therefore, by hand and without passing a public tender. The exceptional nature of the situation made it necessary and made it possible to shorten the waiting times to start up these services. In many of these enclosures, the Government installed respirators and oxygen cylinders for the sick. The territorial delegates of Public Health, the primary care professionals or the specialized teams in residences that were created a posteriori decided the transfers to the ‘buffer’ centers.

The nursing homes that received the sick elderly had to employ staff to take care of them, as stipulated in the award contracts, at the rate of 16 hours a day of a geriatric assistant for every eight patients, 16 hours a day of a nurse for every 32 patients, two hours a week for a doctor for every eight patients and three hours a week for a social worker for every eight patients. They are the same ratios required in nursing homes without medicalization, but without night nursing. The Generalitat has no way of confirming if all this staff has really ended up being hired, according to sources from the Administration.

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Each place reserved it cost 85.62 euros a dayalthough in some nursing homes the cost was lower (71 euros per day) or older (€119). The expense of personnel and the reservation of beds was paid to nursing homes in two different ways. In 2020, the Generalitat took charge of half of the reserved beds, whether or not they were used. If these exceeded 38% of the total seats, 100% of the service was paid. That is, if a residence reserved 10 places for patients infected with the virus, the Generalitat paid for the 5 places, and if more than three admitted patients were reached, the Government financed the total of the 10 reserved places as if they were full, although not it was like that In 2021, the method changed. Empty places were paid at 80% of the stipulated cost and those occupied at 100%..

This newspaper has had access to the contracts from April 2020 to September 2021. A total of 33 residences and two private clinics They offered more than a thousand beds, which multiplied by the time they were available for transfers add up to 141,641 possible stays. Throughout all these months, only 26,625 places were filled with 1,315 patients. In other words, 18.8% of the total beds were filled. The 81.2% remained in disuse. Of the 10.6 million that the Generaltat paid for the entire service, 7.8 million were allocated to unoccupied beds, according to the estimate calculated by this newspaper. This underuse of places occurred during the first and second waves of the pandemic, when Catalan nursing homes registered an increase in infections and also in deaths.

83,000 euros and no income

By residence, the geriatric stands out The Palaulocated in Palau Solità i Plegamans, which from November 2020 to February 2021 did not receive a single patient, but received 83,825 euros for a non-existent service. This residence is being investigated by a court in Sabadell for alleged negligence in the care of the elderly. There are three other nursing homes, Center Geriatric Pirineu in La Pobla de Segur (Pallars Jussa), Residential Lepant (Barcelona), and L’Onada Tortosa (Baix Ebre), which did not reach 6% occupancy and they received, respectively, 131,583.36 euros, 184,174.02 euros and 254,411.27 euros of public funds. Taking into account their occupations and the cost of the places, they received approximately 120,000 euros, 170,000 euros and 230,000 euros, in the same order, for a service not provided.

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The one who received the most public money from the ‘buffer’ plan was the L’Onada group, which offered three of its residences for the transfer of patients with coronavirus: L’Onada Tortosa (Baix Ebre), Residence Mas de l’Avi in ​​Reus (Low Camp) and Villa Clavelina, in Premià de Mar (Maresme). In total, the group received €1.8 million, although the occupations were 5.3%, 19% and 21.5%. The Reus nursing home has one of the highest prices per bed, as it assists people with disabilities. The award resolution includes fixed costs that do not appear in any other contract of these characteristics, such as ceiling paintingthe acquisition of computer, tablet and mobile phoneworks for changing the doors or the purchase of educational and entertainment material. These costs raise the set-up of the service to 33,577.50 euros more.

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The residence Prytanisin L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, pocketed €1.2 million. It was a ‘buffer’ from November 2020 to June 2021. However, they did not occupy even 25% of the contracted places. The turnover of the company also reaches one million euros SUMAR SL., whose general manager is the current deputy mayor of Olot de JxC, Stanis Vayreda. This company used an empty residence in Girona, Orpea, to accommodate covid patients transferred from other nursing homes from April 2020 to March 2021. According to the data obtained, its occupation did not reach 20%. The residence Matacasin Sant Adrià de Besós, with more than 40 deaths during the first wave of the coronavirus, charged half a million euros for being a reference center and caring for minor patients from November 2020 to March 2021.

From September 2021 to the present, the Ministry of Social Rights has continued to maintain these services, which were born before the new team of Violant Cervera (JxCat) entered the Government. Asked about this issue, the Government does not explain how the prices of the reserves were stipulated, nor why they were so high. “We have reduced the number of ‘buffer’ places, but the ones we kept were very useful to us during the sixth wave,” say sources from the ‘conselleria’. “We needed to free up spaces and keep places empty to avoid contagion, also in the face of future waves and the uncertainty of new variants,” these same sources justify. They also maintain that this was a measure requested by the health authorities and approved by decree 29/2020. The ‘buffer’ centers will be rescinded this spring due to the stagnation of the pandemic situation, the relaxation of restrictions and, also, because the Generalitat can no longer make emergency contracts.

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