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Health department will make it mandatory to wear masks in community hospitals and health centers | Society

The Ministry of Health will make the use of face masks mandatory in hospitals and health centers starting from Wednesday to combat influenza infections, EFE announced on Monday afternoon. The department headed by Monica Garcia confirmed to El Pais. A few hours ago in the morning, the majority of the autonomous regions opposed this measure at the special interregional committee on the national health system and opted for this recommendation. So far, only six people have decided to apply it.

Health doesn’t have to wait 48 hours…

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The Ministry of Health will make the use of face masks mandatory in hospitals and health centers starting from Wednesday to combat influenza infections, EFE announced on Monday afternoon. The department headed by Monica Garcia confirmed to El Pais. A few hours ago in the morning, the majority of the autonomous regions opposed this measure at the special interregional committee on the national health system and opted for this recommendation. So far, only six people have decided to apply it.

The Ministry of Health did not wait for 48 hours for the autonomous department to file charges against a proposal presented by the department this morning. The Ministry of Health explained that a coordinated statement of action will be adopted to protect all citizens equally from the respiratory virus and to protect the communities where this action has been implemented in accordance with the law.

The responsibility for enforcing the wearing of masks in health centers rests with the communities themselves: some wear masks, others do not. The six communities that have already implemented it or have just implemented it are Valencian Community (managed by PP and Vox); Catalonia (ERC); Murcia (PP); Aragon (PP), where it will initially be mandatory for health care workers , later extended to patients in waiting rooms; the Canary Islands (CC) announced this Monday, and Asturias (PSOE) also communicated this measure after the Council, where applicable It will be effective for 15 days. The health department has abandoned the original idea of ​​making these measures mandatory in social health centers and pharmacies and now requires them to be only a recommendation.

The legal form the ministry has taken to make masks mandatory is unprecedented. During the epidemic, the central government has been regulating its mandatory nature in different spaces but through decrees. The last requirement to keep masks in health centres, social health centers and pharmacies was abolished five months ago. On this occasion, the Ministry of Health ensures that it is protected by Article 65 of the National Health System Cohesion and Quality Act, which regulates the declaration of coordinated public health actions and stipulates that “all parties are obliged” to incorporate them. Sources in the ministry confirmed that the only spaces now being considered are hospitals and health centers, which are the only way for local governments to enforce the rules with legal guarantees.

The Interregional Committee of the National Health System meets this Monday in Madrid.
Healthy M° (Healthy M° EFE)

This morning, the majority of communities have made clear their opposition to this obligation. Politically diverse, at least Andalusia, Galicia, Madrid, La Rioja, Navarra, Cantabria, Castile and León and the Balearic Islands (governed by the Popular Party), Paz Cadí (PNV) and Castilla-La Mancha (PSOE) both made decisions to reject the populace. Many of them have asked the ministry for technical criteria to make a decision.

Madrid consultant Fatima Matut (PP) assured that her position and that of the majority of the committee is to maintain the responsible use of masks in the situations that have been pointed out. “Certainly this is the approach that we will continue to apply with the scientific rigor and evidence provided by the data we have in each community to protect our population,” he said after the meeting.

Castilla-La Mancha’s health minister, socialist Jesus Fernández Sanz, adhered to a similar argument and said his ministry’s recommendation was that masks were not mandatory but that it should be maintained “Calling people to take responsibility.” He also asked for a meeting of the Alert Report (composed of technical staff) and the Public Health Committee (composed of heads of ministries and autonomous regions) “so that technical staff are the ones who propose measures.”

Murcia’s Health Minister Juan José Pedreño also condemned the minister, deploring the health department’s “lateness” and calling the proposal that did not go through the above-mentioned technical agency an “accident”. “Given the high incidence of influenza and respiratory viruses, local governments have adopted prevention and control measures without consultation from the Ministry of Health and without interest in the evolution of the autonomous region,” he said.

Some communities that reject this obligation, such as La Rioja, recommend that masks be made compulsory in health centers only if the incidence of respiratory viruses reaches certain thresholds, although they have not yet determined what those indicators should be.

However, García’s proposal has broad support from the health sector: medical science and professional representatives agree that masks should be kept in health centers during times of epidemics like the current one. CSIF, the most representative union in public administration, accused the health ministry and regional officials of failing to agree on the measures to be taken and called for the reinforcement of staff and the mandatory wearing of masks.The General Nursing Council also ruled in favor, holding that the latter could be Temporary precautionary measures to minimize the expected spike in infections caused by respiratory infections in the coming days.

Automatic discharge to clear primary coil

In addition to this debate, Minister Monica García also informed the Council that she is studying the authorization for citizens with minor illnesses to take sick leave within the first three days of disability through a responsible self-declaration. This is a measure that the Medical Association has been calling for for years to reduce the burden on health centers, and the Ministry of Health is now taking into account the increase in the prevalence of respiratory viruses, especially influenza, in winter.

The Ministry of Health is negotiating with the Ministry of Social Security on the form and timing of the implementation of these measures, according to sources in the ministry led by Garcia. The minister explained that in many other countries the system already works this way and that just as citizens declare a condition to a doctor (even if this happens to obtain sick leave), they can do so responsibly. This frees up time to complete more necessary care tasks without involving a medical professional.

Some communities, such as Aragon, have rejected the measure, which the medical community has long called for but applauds. This is the case with the Spanish Society of General Practitioners and Family Doctors (SEMG), whose occupational health organization spokesman Francisco Sáez told EFE that “it makes no sense that workers with flu or colds” would run to Sick leave in medical centers is nonsense and ridiculous,” but it also “overloads” already saturated medical centers.

Paulino Cubero, spokesman for the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), echoed the sentiment: “As other countries have done, the last one is Portugal in 2023, one to three days Sick days can be justified because communication between patients and their companies is done electronically, thus avoiding many unnecessary doctor visits during a self-limiting process such as colds, gastrointestinal attacks, migraines, dysmenorrhea, and Other minor procedures that do not require a medical diagnosis.

However, to address the collapse of primary care, immediate steps must be taken. Influenza epidemics are surging: Infections jumped 75% in the last week of the year without the latest data available on Thursday. Experts predict that the numbers will continue to increase given the many family and holiday celebrations after these dates that promote the spread of the virus.

Although it’s unclear when the peak will arrive, experts predict that cases will begin to decrease around the second half of the month. Moreover, the impact of the flu does not only affect health centers: many regions in Spain are already saturated with emergencies, and some hospital facilities, such as those in the community of Valencia, one of the areas with the highest incidence rates, are already under pressure.

Finally, the interregional committee discussed on Monday the implementation of the winter plan for future virus seasons. From the moment the first infections begin, it will be a joint and coordinated effort to avoid a collapse like this year’s.

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