A complaint about the operation of the residence for the elderly in Salvaterra de Miño (Pontevedra) registered in 2017 in the Department of Social Policy of the Xunta de Galicia, ended with a desperate plea: “Please investigate. It is a question of humanity”.
The complainant, a worker who stated that she did not sign the letter “for fear of reprisals”, assured that the staff ratio was not met. And he described the treatment of residents:
“They are not cleaned properly, many of them even give off an odor, they are not fed properly, since the workload is so great and the staff so few that there is no time to do it professionally ”. “There is an increase in falls. Please, check the register of the same and the nursing book ”.
Three years later, similar complaints are repeated. Then and now the company and the Xunta deny deficiencies. The Prosecutor’s Office has opened proceedings.
The situation of abandonment that reflected that complaint is similar to the one that has been presented now, three years later, through the Association of Residential Workers of Galicia (Trega) by personnel displaced by the Xunta to the center when last October 27 it assumed his management to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Then there were 13 deaths among the residents (24 have died in 18 days) and 27 casualties of the 50 employees of the company that the Xunta covered by incorporating 35 own workers and the Galician Health Service (Sergas).
The complaint incorporated horrifying photographs that the center’s management denies that they reflect reality. “They are manipulated,” the manager, Enma González Maño, told this newspaper.
In them, and in the videos disseminated, ulcers can be seen that the complainants claim affect 90% of the users “caused by immobility and by wearing the same diapers for hours”, poor maintenance of the facilities, non-adapted toilets, rooms locked from the outside, threadbare mattresses and doorbells that residents cannot use to call for help because they don’t work.
A general feeling of desolation.
When they arrived at the residence, they were perplexed. “There was not even an anticovid protocol.
The only instructions were the generic ones for the population and the number of infected was skyrocketing, ”says Trega.
Although Residencia Salvatierra SL is private, it has a concert with the Xunta that finances 70 of its 108 places. Before the COVID broke into its facilities, users were served by 50 employees.
Those who are not in the agreement pay between 800 and 1,600 euros per month (plus hairdressing, podiatry and other expenses), according to union sources. The Xunta recognizes that it contributes between 50 and 55 euros per day for each agreed place.
“It is an insufficient amount to cover the cost of personnel,” says the delegate of the CIG union in the region, Mercedes Domínguez. “Many residences do not want public places because accepting them would mean they have enslaved workers and provide poor service,” he says.
The Xunta maintains that the ratio in this residence of “0.35 direct care professionals per resident”.
“It is impossible to serve 108 elderly people with 38 people, because they work 8 hours a day and 40 a week:
1,776 hours a year”, highlights Domínguez. To guarantee this daily ratio, the company “would have to have at least 62 people hired,” he concludes. In his opinion, the low quality of care reported has to do with “the low price that the Xunta pays and the exploitation to which the company consequently subjects the workers.”
The CIG denounced in 2017 to the Xunta’s Labor Inspection that the management “exercised vile harassment” using “verbal violence” on some female employees to achieve “cheap dismissal of senior staff.”
To cope with the situation, four affiliates promoted union elections “and ended up in the street with disciplinary proceedings.” “In the courts we obtained the inadmissibility of the dismissals, but with the intervention of the Inspection nothing changed”, affirms the union.
According to the CIG, the problems began in 2016, when the center received the concert of the first 24 public squares.
The management philosophy that is applied in almost all private centers is, maintains the union, “the one explained by the employer of this residence when he says that this is a business. When a user dies, the Xunta sends him another ”.
Also in 2017 the Consello de Contas, the highest supervisory body of Galicia, reprimanded the Xunta for deficiencies in the operation of the residences. In the report for that year – the last published to date – the Galician Government was drawn to “non-compliance with personnel”, as well as “improper use of the facilities, deficiencies in operating protocols, lack of rigor of the records and not updating the data ”.
And he warned that the Xunta did not sanction breaches.
Regarding the deficiencies in public residences, the president of the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG ) in Galicia, Miguel Ángel Vázquez, points out that “the administration’s own rules are no longer met.” Vázquez maintains that in contests “quality is not the priority, but the lowest cost.”
And in the case of private company concerts with the Xunta, he understands that by contributing 53 euros per person per day “offering the necessary services and paying decent salaries would not be profitable: in a three-star hotel they charge 45 euros just for sleeping.”
Vázquez assures that the ratio of workers in the Salvaterra residence is similar to that of the rest of Spain, although he acknowledges that having “35 people to attend to 100 elderly people morning, afternoon and night 365 days a year is insufficient.”
The director of the center denies deficiencies. “The families would have denounced,” he justifies.
The management has released two letters, one signed by 60 workers and the other by 22 users, supporting the management. The dissatisfied relatives do not dare to report now. “With the center isolated by the covid, they cannot visit their elders and fear reprisals,” they explain from Trega.