153 Doctors Will Get Up to $56K Each for Working Without Personal Protection During COVID

Doctors in Spain have won a lawsuit and a court has awarded them up to 49,000 euros ($56,000) each for working during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic without proper personal protection gear.

Like several other countries, Spain struggled to secure an adequate supply of personal protection suits and face masks for health workers early in the pandemic.

In the city of Valencia on the eastern coast of Spain, a doctors union filed a lawsuit for health workers whose safety was put at risk by not being supplied the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat patients during the first three months of the pandemic.

The judge agreed with the doctors and said the shortage of personal protection suits created "a serious safety and health danger for all health workers, especially for doctors due to their direct exposure to the risk of contagion."

A total of 153 doctors were involved in the lawsuit. They will be compensated between 5,000 to 49,000 euros each.

Doctors who were infected with COVID-19 and were hospitalized will receive 49,000 euros, while those forced to work without PPE but were not infected will receive 5,000 euros.

Spain Doctors Win Lawsuit
Doctors in Spain won a lawsuit for working during the COVID-19 pandemic without being provided with the proper personal protection equipment. Above, A health care worker prepares an injection while attending to a COVID-19 patient at the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, Spain, on August 4, 2021. Josep Lago/ AFP/Getty Images

"This ruling is groundbreaking in Spain," Dr. Víctor Pedrera, secretary general of the Doctors' Union of Valencia CESM-CV that filed the suit, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Pedrera, a family doctor, said that he got ill with the coronavirus shortly after it hit Spain in March of 2020 and spent two months at home "quite badly off and with no idea of what was being done for treatment."

The court based in the eastern province of Alicante ruled late on Tuesday that the region of Valencia failed to protect the health of its doctors during the first three months of the pandemic.

Those doctors who were forced to work without proper protection but did not get infected nor were forced to isolate after being in contact with an infected person will receive 5,000 euros. The compensation increases to 15,000 euros for those who were forced to isolate, 35,000 euros for those who were infected but did not need hospital care, and to 49,000 euros for those who required hospitalization.

Valencia's government will appeal the ruling, Spanish news agency EFE reported.

The ruling said that the region's health administration failed to meet its duty to protect the doctors "from the moment it knew of the existence of COVID-19 and, in particular after the declaration of a national state of emergency."

Pedrera said that there are more lawsuits coming from other groups of doctors in his region of Valencia and that he expects even more to come from other health workers of all types across Spain.

"I am sure that other groups of health workers and doctors from other regions will be encouraged to go forward with their own lawsuits," Pedrera said. "This will be on the one that opens the door."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.