MSF Intervention in Leganés

COVID-19 coronavirus hits Spain hard

COVID-19 has claimed thousands of lives in Spain and health services in the hardest-hit areas of the country are struggling.

MSF started assisting the coronavirus response in mid-March with operations that consist of:

  • Helping to decongest hospitals and health centres so that health staff can focus on attending to the most serious cases and can carry out their work safely and effectively.
  • Strengthening protection to the elderly, who are the most vulnerable group in this outbreak.
  • Supporting the coordination platforms responding to the outbreak with our experience in   managing similar health and humanitarian crises, through disseminating resources and specific tools, including ways to prevent and control infection within hospital and non-hospital environments (e.g. nursing homes and shelters).
MSF coronavirus COVID-19 intervention in Alcalá de Henares
An MSF nurse brings in supplies to one of the temporary inpatient units set up by MSF to decongest emergency services. Alcalá de Henares, Spain, March 2020.
Olmo Calvo

Model of health response to COVID-19

We are offering support and advice to health authorities to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. This includes recommending the expansion of the capacity of referral hospitals by adding external structures. Added capacity is needed to:

  • Help decongest hospital wards so that staff can focus on most serious cases.
  • Create space to have two separate systems for COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients, which is crucial to manage infection control.
  • Help meet the needs of other patients in the health system.


In collaboration with two hospitals and local authorities in Madrid, we have set up health support units in two pavilions in Alcalá de Henares and Leganés to free up emergency beds and treat less serious cases. They have a combined capacity of more than 200 beds.

We are providing support and advice on implementing similar ‘decongestion models’ for several other hospitals in the city.


Our teams are supporting and advising authorities at regional and local levels. The Generalitat (government of Catalonia) will apply our health response model to all hospitals involved in the COVID-19 crisis.

In Barcelona, we participated in designing external structures and patient routes for the main hospitals in the city.

MSF coronavirus and COVID-19 intervention in Leganés
MSF's temporary health unit in Leganés is managed by the Severo Occhoa hospital, with the support of the authorities and local community. We are providing logistical support and monitoring. Spain, March 2020.
Olmo Calvo

Care homes

We are advising the management teams of care homes on risk assessment and on how to put in place hygiene and protection measures to reduce transmission, as well as improving case management. To prevent more infections and provide dignified care, we’re recommending two separate systems of care homes; one for COVID-19 patients and another for elderly who do not have the disease.

The main objectives of our assistance model are:

  • To prevent contagion and spread of the disease.
  • To promote palliative pain treatment.
  • To provide humane care, including dignified farewells between patients and their families.
  • To provide psychosocial support for health workers, patients and their families.

Telephone helplines and information sharing

We have set up a national helpline in Spain to provide strategic and technical support to professionals in charge of the various health institutions, crisis committees and other institutions involved in the response to the epidemic.

Another line enables former MSF staff and other contacts who are still active in the health sector to alert us to critical situations.

We have also launched an internet portal with resources for health workers, geriatric specialists, staff who care for the elderly, civil and health authorities, and others coordinating the response to the epidemic.

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