Almost a month ago, the Nurse Isabel Zendal emergency hospital changed its director. The man whom Isabel Díaz Ayuso put in charge of the “pandemic hospital that was going to surprise the world”, in the words of the Madrid president, has been assigned to another position within the Ministry of Health. One more finding that this health center has ceased to make sense only ten months after its launch in December 2020 after the drastic reduction of infections thanks to the success of vaccination. A short period of time that has not prevented the building that Ayuso turned into his great milestone in his administration during the pandemic, from being a bottomless pit of public spending.
The real cost of the infrastructure that the Madrid president ordered to be built in record time – while at the same time refusing to hire more toilets to put it into operation – has been gradually published on the Madrid Community Contracting Portal. To this day it is unknown if the amount is complete, but these figures already reflect additional costs that amount to 149%. The data collected and analyzed by elDiario.es of all the contracts that have been made public stipulate an amount that amounts to 170.5 million euros, triple what was announced: 51 million.
Zendal’s extra costs, only in regard to construction works, amount to 149% of the total. The health building is made up of several industrial buildings and can house up to 1,000 beds and 40 ICUs, although it lacks rooms as such and operating rooms since it is an open space in which the bathrooms are shared and there are no kitchens either. Ayuso wanted to replicate the makeshift hospital of Ifema, which he turned into the propaganda of his administration during the first wave, which makes an infrastructure that in no case can resemble a hospital as we know it.
Raising the building located in the north of the capital, in Valdebebas, has cost the public coffers 140.1 million, 82% of the budget. There were a total of seven companies that hand-picked the award of the works –without public tender or publicity–, with Ferrovial, Dragados and Constructora San José at the helm, which accumulate half the cost of the infrastructure. These construction companies ended up registering cost overruns with respect to the initial signed contract of 170%.
The other 30 million have been earmarked for furniture, sanitary, IT or security equipment, among other expenses. Only in maintaining the infrastructure, 2.6 million euros have already been spent in just ten months. Another two million have gone to cleanup.
The most striking disbursements are in furniture and computing. In equipping the press room, the regional government spent 369,759 euros, a contract that was handcrafted by El Corte Inglés. For the so-called “crisis room”, a space that the Ministry of Health assures that it is “versatile”, another 323,958 euros went to stop. Another of the scandals sounded around the winning companies has to do with the security contract. Ariete security took it up to two occasions for 2.1 million euros. In the company, a former councilor of the PP in Alcorcón Silvia Cruz Martín appears as the sole administrator.
And it is that the entire construction of the Zendal and its start-up has been done with finger contracts, without publicity or public attendance. In other words, it was the Ayuso government that decided, without putting out to tender the tenders, which companies it called to lift the project. 151 contracts that were tendered through emergency contracting. Another nine were minor contracts, that is, the amount of which does not exceed 18,000 euros, VAT included, and they are not obliged to put them out to tender.
Ayuso was able to avail himself of this type of hiring thanks to the states of alarm decreed by the Government, which he has questioned so much and which he has used as a throwing weapon against Sánchez.
The first state of alarm, decreed during the worst moment of the pandemic in the first wave, was overthrown by the Constitutional Court after Vox appealed it. The second is still under study but it will foreseeably also be declared illegal. A sentence that the Madrid president has used to criticize the Government but whose benefits she did not hesitate to use throughout 2020 and part of 2021, such as to build this infrastructure, and in numerous other contracts.
The regional government also made use of this contracting method during a few off-peak months between July and September in which it had not been alarmed, arguing that the urgency of the project due to the health crisis was sufficient justification, while it refused to hire more toilets.
The infrastructure was criticized since its announcement by the opposition and also by the health unions, who always viewed with skepticism allocating those millions to a building that would cease to make sense in a short time, while there were other emergencies that to date have not been remedied . The cost of the infrastructure according to the current data available, 170.5 million euros is, for example, more than double the money -80 million- that the Madrid president assured that she would allocate a year ago to reinforce Primary Care in a plan to three years. Twelve months after that announcement, health centers are still waiting for a reinforcement that does not arrive.
Nobody clarifies now what the Zendal will be for when the pandemic ends. Currently there are only 20 patients admitted to the ward, 2% of its capacity and another 12 in the ICU and 14 in the UCRI, according to the data provided to this drafting by the Ministry of Health. The uncertainty of what to do with a building that alone will cost several million euros a year to maintain, led Ayuso even to offer it to Pedro Sánchez at their bilateral meeting last July.
Staffing it in the last ten months forced 1,538 health workers to leave their usual hospitals, whose centers saw their operation altered while continuing to treat Covid patients. The difficulty in getting professionals who wanted to move, because the order was not to hire more, led the regional government to order that no health worker who rejected that destination be hired again. Since its opening and until July 20, five intensivists passed through the Zendal critics unit, on a rotating basis, according to data published by El País.
Another of the projects that was considered is to use the infrastructure for the patients of the La Paz hospital when it begins to be rehabilitated. But the reality is that without operating rooms, without rooms, without a kitchen and with shared bathrooms between eight patients, the Zendal is far from providing the services of a traditional hospital like La Paz, one of the largest in the region.
The latest announcement about its possible usefulness has been to convert it into a rehabilitation center for patients who have passed the Covid-19 and have had sequelae. Many proposals but no concretion for the infrastructure with which Ayuso sought to make “history.”