AN INNOCUOUS ABANDONED BUILDING SITE in the centre of La Zenia neglected for the last seven years has found itself at the centre of immense local controversy this week.
For this is no ordinary building site. In 2009 this 5,000 square metre plot of prime building land was scheduled to be developed into a cutting-edge emergency response centre providing fast access to emergency services for the residents of Orihuela Costa.
Originally proposed as a permanent base for the fire service, ambulance crews, and law enforcement officers, the 1.6 million Euro emergency services centre promised access to a local police station 24 hours a day and the ability to handle helicopter traffic.
But the flagship project has languished since 2011 when the original builder filed for bankruptcy, and today all that remains at the closed site is the structural skeleton of the main building shrouded by a curtain of rusting corrugated iron.
The fundamental need for the emergency services centre was demonstrated last week, when an unexpected and devastating tragedy took place on La Zenia’s main beach resulting in the death of a British child.
Orihuela Costa Emergency Services Centre shrouded in controversy
Health professionals and police personnel managed to stabilise the 9 year old boy who was transferred from the Quiron Hospital in Torrevieja, the only hospital in the Orihuela Costa area to offer an air ambulance service, to Alicante General Hospital.
Sadly, the youngster passed away last Wednesday afternoon despite the valiant attempts of the Alicante medical team to revive him.
Since then, the local Town Hall has come under fire admitting in a press release that a local lifeguard service that had been in operation over the Easter period had been suspended until the peak summer season just a day before the tragedy, and witnesses criticised the length of time the responding ambulances took to reach the scene.
In a press release, the council stated “Orihuela Town Hall wishes to express its utmost condolences over the loss of the child, of British origin, as a result of a collision with another youngster”.
“The incident happened during medium season and the coastal lifeguard and rescue service had ended after Easter on April 2. We deeply regret the youngster’s loss and offer our condolences to his family”.
But the situation descended into a legal confrontation between a local residents association and the Town Hall, after Spanish online news service Diario Informacion reported yesterday that Orihuela council intended to instigate legal action alleging insults and slander.
The Movimiento Ciudadano La Zenia allegedly accused Orihuela City Town Hall Mayor Emilio Bascuñana of being morally responsible for the death of the British child, noting that the Mayor authorised an initiative to install automated defibrillators at locations within the city of Orihuela but not in coastal locations along the Orihuela Costa.
The alleged accusations were made in a post on the organisations Facebook page last Wednesday, but the post was deleted within hours after several councillors made personal phone calls to the President of the local association, Felix Arenas.
In response to the legal action, a representative for Movimiento Ciudadano La Zenia reportedly stated that the complaint will present “an opportunity to document what happened last week” and that “there is nothing immoral in speaking the truth”.
Renewed calls for improvements to health services
On Saturday, it was reported that Mayor Bascuñana had sent a letter to the Councillor for Health, Carmen Montón, requesting immediate improvement to the health services provided on the Orihuela Costa reflecting on the “great sadness of our residents over this tragedy”.
The Orihuela Costa locale is home to 20,000 registered residents, and 10,000 additional residents who live on the coast seasonally.
That number can multiply five fold during the summer season, and with an ageing expatriate population and an emergency medical service equipped with a fleet of Basic Life Support ambulances (SVB), but just four Advanced Life Support ambulances (SAMU), there have been renewed calls for swift action to complete the emergency services centre.
Diego Herrera, a member of the Federation of Associations of Orihuela Costa, has urged the tender of the new emergency services centre to be treated as urgent, and suggested that to provide immediate improvements to public safety, a SAMU should be stationed at the health centre in Aguamarina 24 hours a day
Mr Herrera also proposed that automatic defibrillators should be installed in the Chiringuitos, the beach bars that propagate the coastline, with appropriate First Aid training given to staff to ensure their safe use.
In December last year Mayor Bascuñana, a doctor by profession, announced that the Orihuela Costa emergency services centre would be completed mid-2019 with a budget of 2.2 million Euro.