Waiting lists also lengthen in private healthcare in Madrid: “I don’t pay insurance for this” | Madrid

The scene experienced in the emergency room of the Quirónsalud Hospital in Pozuelo (Madrid) on Thursday, June 30, was unusual for the health of people who pay tolls to avoid traffic jams. Tired of waiting, a woman got up. Very angry, though polite, she asked for the claim form and to immediately speak to a medical officer at this private center in the richest municipality in Spain. The general mood was very tense. The rooms were full. In pediatrics, a sitting mother carried her two eight-year-old twins on her because there were no free seats. Those who asked were told the average wait was four hours. The woman’s conversation with the hospital worker could be heard by all:

“I don’t pay private insurance for it. It gets worse and worse in the hospital. If they have a broken service, they should not accept any more patients.

“This is a hospital and we cannot deny care to anyone. This is not the line at the supermarket.

Private healthcare has always been marketed as a quick option for patients, but in Madrid there is an unusual situation of waiting times for access to certain specialists of up to three months, collapsed emergency rooms and patient care phones that ring without anyone answering. It’s not a generalized problem, it depends on the majors. In Assisi, for example, on Thursday last week, a patient found an appointment without waiting very long if he had a problem in internal medicine, cardiology or otorhinolaryngology. A day or two at most. The problem came with specialties such as urology, traumatology or dermatology, where you wait an average of a month to see a doctor. In some cases more than three. Not knowing what that means because the web didn’t allow knowing the reasons.

This problem has come as an unpleasant surprise for many people from Madrid, who in many cases have fled public health care precisely to avoid the extreme waiting lists, in which there are almost 900,000 people: one in seven in the community of Madrid.

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Private healthcare employers have not published data on waiting times since 2019. At that time, before the pandemic, according to the Idis Foundation’s Private Healthcare Indicators Report, a think tank of the large groups in the sector, average waiting times of 30 minutes in the emergency room and no more than two weeks for first consultations with specialists are common, a speed that has become one of the most important values ​​for a consumer. Now, union representatives for private sector health workers report that it is common to wait between one and three months for an appointment in areas such as dermatology, rheumatology, paediatrics, trauma or psychiatry. Something that is beginning to despair.

What’s happening? The explanation, according to unions, is that the private system did not prepare for the avalanche of customers it received during and because of the pandemic. The number of Madrid residents with private insurance has grown by 10% since 2019 (241,000 more, reaching 2.5 million insured), according to insurance employer Unespa.

“And we are the same to take care of a larger number of patients,” criticized Samuel Mosquera, head of private healthcare at CC OO Madrid. The UGT goes further to condemn that in some centers the number of doctors has even decreased. “Specialists go to the public one because the private one pays them almost the same for much more work,” says Teresa Benavides, spokeswoman for private health in Madrid for this union.

Several people in front of the facade of HM Sanchinarro.


Employers respond that the number of toilets has increased by 6%, despite the difficulties in finding professionals, due to their shortage in Spain, a problem that also affects the public. “We continue to need the inclusion of new professionals, with an average high need for nurses in 95% of our hospitals and for doctors in 58%,” says a spokesperson for the Spanish Private Health Alliance (Aspe).

Aspe points to the pandemic to explain the delays that have led to increased waiting lists for all non-covid pathology and diagnostic tests and increased health concerns. “There is more saturation, especially in emergencies [lo que equivaldría a la atención primaria del circuito público]but not in most specialties or in surgery, with sufficient capacity,” adds the Aspe spokesperson.

Despite this deterioration in service, private healthcare can boast of being faster than Madrid’s public healthcare system, which is in such a critical situation that some patients are receiving appointments for 2024. Of Madrid’s 886,668 residents in the public waiting list, 510,887 They have been waiting for more than three months.

But that’s no consolation to private customers who have seen better times, like Pilar Corral, a 65-year-old retiree from Mostoles. She has been a private user for 40 years and was never late until November 2020 when she got an appointment with a rheumatologist for three months later at Quirónsalud Sur Hospital, in Alcorcón, south of Madrid. Since then, he has been experiencing continuous delays for his periodic check-ups. The last straw was on April 4, two days before another consultation, when he got a call from the hospital to cancel the appointment because the doctor had stopped working with the center. Coral remained in limbo: “The doctor who replaced him was terribly congested, so I couldn’t see her until the middle of June.”

The Quirónsalud group declined to comment.

Communication vessels

To reduce public waiting lists, autonomous communities refer patients from public health care to private hospitals in exchange for financial compensation from the administrations. Aspe denies that these derivations are causing more congestion in the private sector. “The Spanish private patient pie tells us that only 15 patients out of 100 come from the concerts,” says its spokesman.

Carlos González, a patient at HM Sanchinarro, at the door of hospital consultations.
Carlos González, a patient at HM Sanchinarro, at the door of hospital consultations.


As experts try to explain the cause of the deterioration, patients are desperate. Carlos González, a retiree who lives in the northeast of Madrid, is recognized as another user frustrated with private. Last Thursday, he left HM Sanchinarro, near his home, frustrated because, when booking a routine appointment with the urologist, he was told there was no space on the calendar and that he would have to ask again in a few days. “This has not happened before. The private sector is no longer like it was 10 years ago,” he complained. “My wife and I got the private one because it was a lot faster, but you’re seeing more and more crowds.”

A spokeswoman for the HM Hospitales group also pointed to the covid crisis as a reason for the delays: “Demand has increased, but more than the growth of insurance, we confirm that this is a consequence of the higher accident rate due to the paralysis of health activity due to the pandemic.

Gonzalez’s partner, Mar Ortiz, also went out with him in desperation, though aware that they felt lucky after all. A relative recently had a mammogram at the Hospital del Henares and was given an appointment to give her the results in August 2023, a year later. “Here I can spend a maximum of 15 days to see my gynecologist and for me it’s not a wait,” he assured Thursday outside the hospital gates before returning home.

This Monday and Tuesday, her husband called to make an appointment with a urologist. The answer in both cases was the same: “We haven’t opened the agenda yet. Call tomorrow.”

Do you have more information? Write to the authors of this report at fpeinado@elpais.es and bferrero@elpais.es

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