José Luis Gutiérrez, head of the SAS (Servicio Andaluz de Salud) handed in his notice with immediate effect this morning. He’s been running the show since April 2008.
The Health Ministry of Andalucia have said that the resignation has nothing to do with the flu epidemic, but refused to speculate on the reason for his resignation.
Meanwhile, in Almeria province 4 people are in intensive care as the flu epidemic increases. Doctors have warned that the flu, which is the AH1N1 variant known as “swine flu” appears to be infecting more people than normal this year and say the next few weeks will be “hectic”.
Across Andalucia, 168 people have been hospitalised, of which 75 are in Intensive Care, and 16 people have died.
Patient organisations have denounced that this years flu campaign has been chaotic, with not enough trained staff to properly distribute the seasonal flu vaccine (leaving people unprotected), and a lack of coordination in hospitals meaning some doctors are turning patients away untreated. SATSE, the nurses union, have lodged an official complaint after Cordoba’s Infanta Margarita de Cabra hospital became so saturated that 28 patients with severe respiratory problems were sent home, and doctors were attending to primary care patients in the waiting room.
The SAS have authorised the hiring of a further 200 nurses in order to help distribute flu shots and improve local services until the flu epidemic abates.
Patients are now being asked not to go to their hospital unless the infection is serious.
SATSE the union says that the problems across Andalucia are simply a mixture of budget cuts and (very) poor planning by the central authorities, and warn that if this years flu season is as bad as statisticians think it’s going to be, we’re all stuffed.