MADRID, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Isabel Ayuso, president of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, on Tuesday inaugurated here the Isabel Zendal Emergency Hospital, which is designed to take in coronavirus patients and to serve as a center for future pandemic emergencies.
"Today is a day of hope," said Ayuso, "Madrid and Spain are going to have a world-class center without precedent in Spain and Europe." She added that the hospital would function as an "extra lung" to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The hospital, which is named after a Spanish nurse, who is recognized as the first nurse to participate in an international vaccination mission, has been built in the Valdebebas district in northern Madrid close to the IFEMA Convention Center which was used as an emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
When fully operational, the new hospital will care for around 1,000 patients in three pavilions, each of which occupies around 10,000 square meters of floor space, although currently only around 25 percent of the hospital will be operational as construction continues on the rest of the complex.
According to Spanish media reports, for now only 240 beds and 16 intensive care beds are ready to be used. Furthermore, the hospital cannot receive patients, because it does not have enough staff to care for them.
Spanish state broadcaster RTVE reported that only 116 medical professionals have volunteered to work at the Isabel Zendal Hospital, leaving over 550 posts to be filled before any patients can be treated there.
Health service unions have warned that since the Madrid regional authority is not contracting any extra medical professionals to work at the hospital, it will have to be staffed with doctors and nurses transferred from the region's other hospitals, leaving those understaffed at this time of crisis.
"It is not going to have the necessary full-time staff of health workers that it needs," commented Angel Gabilondo, leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE) group in the Madrid assembly.
Critics also point out that the 100 million euros (120.4 million U.S. dollars) spent on its construction could have financed the reinforcement of Madrid's primary health care system, the hiring of more medical professionals from the region and the strengthening of coronavirus contact tracking and tracing.
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