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Man dies after hospital refuses him treatment because he was foreign
thinkSPAIN , Sunday, May 5, 2013

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 Hospital immediately.

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 carried out.

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 service.

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'.

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