It’s over. The fourth magistrate in four years in the summary opened by the complaints of leaks in the 2018 medical oppositions of the Basque Health Service (Osakidetza), Blanca Ester Díaz Pulido, has decided not to extend the investigation any further, which has been languishing for a year in the court of instruction 2 of Vitoria. Technically, the case is not closed since a reasoned order is pending from the magistrate by which it is known whether she files the case definitively or whether she sends all or part of the twenty defendants to trial, but this decision will prevent requesting new statements or documents if it has not been done before this July 29. The Prosecutor’s Office, on the contrary, had proposed to keep this case open.
LAB and ESK ask for more time to reach the end of the judicial investigation of Osakidetza’s medical exams
The investigative process concludes, for example, without all the examinations of all the specialties under investigation having been submitted to the court. The previous instructor, Cristina Rodríguez Ruiz, went so far as to affirm that this “did not contribute anything” to the analysis of what happened despite the fact that the few copies that have been reviewed, half a dozen of Anesthesia and those of Traumatology, showed signs of irregularities such as identical wordings in the case of opponents with better grades and even repetition of mistakes or keywords. A statistical analysis showed that in numerous tests the best scores coincided with hospital colleagues of the authors of the questions.
According to the order of the instructor, neither the Prosecutor’s Office nor the other accusations (LAB and ESK) “have sufficiently argued the reasons for the relevance and essentiality” of the issues that they see as pending and affirms that “multiple proceedings ” in order to draw conclusions. Díaz Pulido adds that she cannot be held responsible for issues that were pending from her predecessor and she admits that she has learned some details of the case now, “at the time of deciding on the extension.” She states that a “preventive” extension of the term is not possible and she points out that the Provincial Court of Álava has yet to rule on some points in this case, which could still lead to new developments in the investigation.
The lawyers of a large part of the defendants (members of the courts and opponents, for the most part) had lined up to seek the end of the investigation. However, the judicial resolution highlights that the decision “is not final”, that is, it is subject to possible appeals either in reform (before itself) or on appeal (before the Provincial Court) with a period of three and five business days that may be extended until September because August is usually a non-working day for the purposes of notifications in the judiciary.
The ordinary term of this case ended on July 29, 2021, now twelve months ago. Then a first extension of six months was agreed, although it was communicated well after the deadline, already in September. The first decision was not to accept the imputation of the former Minister of Health, Jon Darpón, or the general director of Osakidetza at that time, María Jesús Múgica. In January 2022, with little progress, a second extension was agreed, but in the last six months not a single new procedure appears in this summary. The accusations, particularly the LAB and ESK unions, have tried to invigorate the process, but they have not been able to win half a year more to complete some lines of investigation or, in the case of LAB, to continue trying to review the actions of the political leaders. ESK, in a first assessment, trusts that there will continue to be a “legal journey” despite this slam and trusts that at least these years have served “to put an end once and for all” to a “client” system.
In this investigation, so far, there are twenty people charged. They are the opponents Maite Izaguirre, Esther Bravo, Ricardo Asensio, Manuel Hernando Rydings and Claudia Aramendi and the member of the court María Reyes Vega of the OPE of Angiology; opponents Fe Arcocha, Laura Quintas and Francisco de la Cuesta from Cardiology; the author of the Urology exam, Dr. Javier Extramiana; José Luis Cabriada as author of the Digestive exam; César Augusto Valero, editor of the Anesthesia questions; Eduvigis Álvarez from the Neurophysiology court, José Antonio Elexpuru and Covadonga Fernández from the Neurosurgery jury; Iñigo Echevarría, member of Traumatology; and the opponent Thais Salas and her relative Alfredo Martínez Flórez, as well as the members Andrés Beltrán and Javier Meléndez from Plastic Surgery.
The OPE under suspicion was held in the spring of 2018. Before the exams, the Osakidetza management had already received suspicions from a member of the Cardiology court, Dr. Ángel Loma-Osorio. He and his colleague Izaskun Obieta, in addition, have argued that the leaks to benefit candidates were “vox populi” in the Basque Health. In parallel, three anesthesiologists, Marta Macho, Manoel Martínez and Roberto Sánchez, ‘guessed’ before a notary who in their category was going to get a place. In Angiology, another member of the court, Dr. José María de Egaña, also warned of irregularities.
Darpón then ordered the opening of an internal investigation that concluded that there were no “objective elements” to corroborate the complaints, although the statistics pointed in the opposite direction not only in Anesthesia, Cardiology or Angiology, but in up to twenty tests. This was reported to the Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor Carmen Adán, however, decided to send the matter to a court in Vitoria and there it was found that Osakidetza had not sent all the material that he collected in the internal investigations. He had recordings -later released by this newspaper in the summer of 2019- in which there was talk of “tongo” or that the exams of the best were “photocopies” of each other and with respect to the correction template. The counselor left his position although the lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, has always defended his management. Múgica and other positions on his team have also been dismissed.