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Madrid health chief sacked after criticism of Ebola victim

Javier Rodríguez caused outcry with comments questioning abilities of Teresa Romero

Madrid health chief Javier Rodríguez in the regional assembly. Ampliar foto
Madrid health chief Javier Rodríguez in the regional assembly.

The health chief for the Madrid region, Javier Rodríguez, has been sacked from his position, regional government sources have told EL PAÍS. Rodríguez had come under fire for his handling of the Ebola crisis in Spain, during which he made highly critical comments about Teresa Romero, the Spanish nursing assistant who contracted the virus.

Speaking on Wednesday to the Europa Press Televisión news agency, Rodríguez was confident that he would be continuing in his post, saying that if he “had done things badly,” Teresa Romero “would not be talking.” He added that were it not for his management of the Ebola crisis, “Spain would continue to have that disease.” The country was this week officially declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization.

Rodríguez had been confident about continuing, saying if he “had done things badly,” Teresa Romero “would not be talking”

Romero became infected with Ebola while treating two Spanish missionaries who had been repatriated from West Africa. She managed to survive the virus, and has since explained that she has no idea of when or how she could have contracted it. Initial reports had suggested that she may have touched her face when removing her protective clothing.

Rodríguez caused a public outcry at the onset of the crisis in October with his criticisms of Romero, which many interpreted as an attempt to shift the blame for the infection on to the nursing assistant and away from the regional health authorities. During a TV interview, he expressed doubts about Romero’s professional abilities, saying that “you don’t need a master’s degree to learn how to put on a suit.” Some have “better abilities to learn than others,” he concluded.

Rodríguez also insinuated during an interview with radio network Cadena SER that the nursing assistant had lied about her condition before being admitted to Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. When faced with criticism for the regional authorities’ handling of the crisis, he stated that “if I have to resign, I will resign,” adding that he had come “into politics with my affairs already in order.” He emphasized that he was not “bound” to his position within the regional government given that he was a doctor, and “fortunately” has his “life all sorted out.”

The statements prompted the husband of Teresa Romero, Javier Limón, to begin legal proceedings against the now ex-health chief.