A high-profile first visit by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital to show support for medics in the front line of Spain’s battle against Ebola risked being overshadowed today by a small but vocal protest by health workers, both against Mr Rajoy’s appearance and over allegedly precarious working conditions.
Mr Rajoy had no problems making a five-minute speech praising the hospital’s work against Ebola, albeit from a side door rather than from the main entrance, where the protesters had assembled. He emphasised that the government’s priority “is called Teresa Romero”, the nurse who contracted Ebola and who is being treated in Carlos III.
On the other side of the building, however, the protesters, clad in medical uniforms, called for Mr Rajoy’s resignation and repeatedly touched their faces – the gesture allegedly made by Ms Romero that caused her to be infected. Some then threw their latex hospital gloves at the Prime Minister’s officials as they made for their car after his speech.
If running the gauntlet of protesters’ wrath had not formed part of Mr Rajoy’s plans, the demonstrators subsequently insisted that it was wrong to blame protocol errors by Ms Romero for her contracting Ebola, as some in Mr Rajoy’s PP party have done. The protesters also claimed that their own working conditions were overly precarious.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
“They bombarded a patient [Ms Romero] under medication with questions, and under those circumstances you’d say anything,” one demonstrating nurse told El País newspaper. Others claimed that the medics treating Ms Romero and the other cases in quarantine “had volunteered – but as a result of coercion”. Local health authority officials have repeatedly denied this.
Previously, 30 physicians at La Paz hospital – a joint operation with Carlos III – had published a letter claiming that the Carlos III hospital infrastructure is “clearly deficient, which constitutes a health risk both for the workers and for the rest of the population”.
The government created a new ministerial committee to reinforce its handling of the outbreak.