March 18, 2020 / 1:40 PM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 1-Madrid prosecutors investigate 17 coronavirus deaths in single nursing home

(Adds details, relative’s quote)

MADRID, March 18 (Reuters) - Madrid prosecutors have opened an investigation into more than 17 coronavirus-related deaths at a nursing home following a complaint by a patients’ rights association, the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

The capital is the epicentre of the epidemic in Spain, accounting for most of its 558 fatalities.

City health authorities confirmed that 15 residents of the Monte Hermoso facility had died from the infection since Friday, while six more were transferred to a hospital where at least two more died.

El Pais newspaper reported that the infected elderly people had been confined to the nursing home until Tuesday, and many died there without proper hospital care.

Angry relatives complained that the authorities kept them in the dark for days about the deaths and the contagion situation at the nursing home.

“Either the authorities have been covering this up or the situation is just completely out of control,” Yolanda Cumia, whose father had died at Monte Hermoso, told Telemadrid TV.

Spokespeople for the Madrid Social Affairs Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Fernando Simon, the head of Spain’s health emergency centre, said nursing homes for elderly were more severely hit by the epidemic, swelling the coronavirus death toll.

“In the regions where nursing homes are affected, there is an impact on (overall number of) serious cases and deaths,” he told reporters.

El Pais also reported on Wednesday that eight patients in another nursing home in the Basque city of Vitoria - also hard-hit by the epidemic - died from coronavirus over the past 12 days.

Health authorities have reported 13,716 cases and 558 fatalities as of Wednesday across Spain, which is the second most affected by the epidemic in Europe after Italy. The region of Madrid had 5,637 cases and 390 deaths.

Reporting by Nathan Allen, Emma Pinedo, Paola Luelmo and Inti Landaura; editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan

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