Catalonia's biggest hospital to cut 24% of beds over summer

Budget constraints force Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona to reduce capacity

Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital
Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital / Laura Fíguls / ACN
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 7, 2024 12:21 PM

June 7, 2024 03:15 PM

Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital, the largest in Catalonia, will close 24% of its beds - a total of 272 - during July, August and September due to budget constraints.  

While the hospital typically reduces bed capacity during the summer when demand is lower and staff take vacations, the closure rate is usually around 16% and only for the month of August.  

Despite having a budget of €980 million, about €20 million more than last year, the hospital still faces a shortfall of about €33 million to meet its budget.   

This deficit has arisen because expenses have increased more than income, especially due to the cancellation of the Covid-19 surcharge and the increase in staff in 2023.   

The director of the Catalan Institute of Health (ICS), Xavier Pèrez, stressed that the closed beds at the Vall d'Hebron hospital are surgical beds with "deferrable activity" and assured that emergency care and oncology services are guaranteed.

Primary care centers told not to hire vacation replacements

The news comes a few days after the ICS decided not to hire replacements for vacationing staff at primary care centers (CAPs) from June to September, citing economic reasons.   

The announcement raised concerns about hospital capacity in Catalonia this summer.

Health minister Manel Balcells assured citizens that "emergencies will be attended to" and that only some scheduled pathologies and surgeries will be postponed. 

"[The cuts] will not affect healthcare activity in the summer. There will be no collapse of primary care centers. There will be no problems with emergency care anywhere, including vacation spots," he said. 


The minister recognized that the bed closures at Vall d'Hebron would not affect urgent or critical cases, but measures would be needed to manage the situation with available resources. 

Balcells attributed the bed closures to the lack of a Catalan budget for 2024, after parliament failed to approve that proposed by ruling pro-independence Esquerra, triggering a snap election.   

The minister also admitted that more beds than usual will have to be closed at Vall d'Hebron, but assured that this would be done in a "moderate proportion". 

The deputy director of the Catalan Health Service, Alfred Garcia, argued that the planned activity for the entire year exceeds that of the previous year, despite the planned closure of surgical beds during the summer.  

In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Garcia defended that "we are far from cuts" and that this year more resources and professionals are available compared to last year.