AN IMMIGRANT who had lived
in Spain for eight years has died of tuberculosis after being refused
medical treatment because he did not have a health card.
The international charity
Médicos del Mundo ('World Doctors') and independent political party
MÉS de Mallorca have publicly condemned the fact that the young man
from Sénégal lost his life when the hospital in Inca (Mallorca)
declined to carry out any tests on him.
They say this is a direct
result of cutbacks in healthcare funding including the Spanish
government's decision to withdraw health cards from all non-EU
immigrants who are not paying into the Social Security system
enabling them to have a residence permit.
The deceased had gone to
his local doctors' surgery on April 21, and was told to go to Inca
This was six months after
he had gone to his nearest clinic to say that someone he had been in
close contact with was suffering from the contagious lung disease,
even though he himself had not suffered any symptoms as yet.
He had been treated on
seven occasions in the same health centre, but always in their
emergency department, since only immediate urgent cases are dealt
with where an immigrant does not have a health card.
Staff there told him on
the seventh occasion to go to A&E in the hospital, which he tried
to do three times.
The first time, they
refused to attend to him, and on the second time they made him sign a
form agreeing to pay for the consultation before they would do so –
but although he was seen by a doctor, no tests or examinations were
On the third occasion,
they gave him a quick check-over but no tests such as X-rays or blood
tests to diagnose him, did not keep him in hospital on medication,
nor give him any medicine or prescriptions.
Each and every time he saw
a doctor either in hospital or in his local surgery, the deceased had
to explain his situation and symptoms again in full.
This was because all
immigrants who had their health cards confiscated also had their
medical history wiped off the system, so no details of any past
treatment can be accessed.
Médicos del Mundo say
treating tuberculosis is extremely easy, very cheap, and very
manageable, meaning this man's death could have been prevented at
little cost and with no real effort on the part of the health
They say this is the first
fatality they have become aware of directly caused by a foreign
resident losing entitlement to healthcare on the State.
“It is appalling
that our health service – one of the best in southern Europe –
has allowed a person to die from a third-world illness because of a
Royal Decree,” stated the charity.
MÉS de Mallorca has
called for the Balearic Islands regional health minister to resign,
and intends to take legal action against the department for 'failure
to assist', a criminal offence in Spain whereby a person or
organisation deliberately and knowingly does not help someone, within
the limits of their own capabilities, whose life is at risk.
It applies to ordinary
citizens – such as choosing not to call an ambulance when they know
someone needs urgent medical help for a life-threatening situation –
and also to medical professionals where they deny help to someone who
may die as a result.
'Failure to assist' is
included in various articles in the Spanish Criminal Code which
refers to the 'universal right to healthcare'.