The Costa del Sol Hospital is just outside Marbella
I’ve just come back from a Sunday morning visit to a friend in the large Costa del Sol Hospital. It’s seven kilometres out of Marbella towards Fuengirola just in front of the Los Monteros Urbanization. Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffiths have  their holiday home there. 

Visiting the hospital in the old days
Forty years ago when we first arrived in Spain to make a similar hospital visit it was a different story. We had to make a hazardous two hour journey to the Hospital Civil in Málaga. Our little Seat 850 wound its way along the narrow coastal road passing through the very centre of Fuengirola past the bus station. Then  over the Los Boliches bridge, following the two lane road along the curves of the cliffs before reaching Torremolinos.  Next came the end of Malaga airport runway.  Now we have a super fast road system and the ultra modern Costa del Sol regional hospital is right on our doorstep. It’s also several times every day by the Costa del Sol bus service.

Family and friends are expected to help
Our friend was on the second floor where the short term trauma patients stay. Sunday hospital visiting is big in Spain with nearly every two bedded room crowded with visiting family and friends. Every day visiting hours are until 9.30pm in the Costa del Sol Hospital. The Spanish medical system expects the patient’s family to play a full part in the care and recovery of patients.

Pay cards for the TV system in each room are available from the dispenser in the lobby next to the lifts. Water is dispensed from slot machines on each floor. Newspapers, magazines and gifts are sold in the shop downstairs. All of this supposes that the patient is mobile, or has a member of family on hand all day. Family can sleep overnight in the upright chair in the room. Don’t hang back in with supplementary care or lengthy visits to  friends and relatives. The hospital expects it.

It’s an attractive modern hospital
Brilliant marble floor tiles reflect the light in the large cool entrance area and passages. On the way to the room I passed one of the open plan ward stations. Four nurses male and female were on duty. Two sides were open to the public. It looked purposeful and organized. Looking up as we neared we asked for our friend’s room and one of the nurses gave us her room number without consulting a list. The visiting room for family to meet mobile patients was airy and light. It had views out towards the sea and the green links of the Santa Clara golf course. A young girl hooked up to her drip on a stand chatted comfortably to her friends.

Room cleaning
The Costa del Sol hospital rooms are visited frequently. I asked the young woman cleaner how often the rooms were checked. “We clean the rooms once a day” she said, “And the bathrooms are cleaned once a day. We change four times a day.” The older woman floor cleaner was off at 3pm and couldn’t wait. I asked her if she would be cleaning at home when she got home. “No!” she said putting both palms towards her face to indicate the need for rest, “I am going to sleep, then get myself made up and perhaps have a little walk in the evening” The bathroom, room, passages and lifts looked spotless to me.

A good looking young male doctor the very double of any star in a medical TV series breezed in. With a syringe poised at the ready he greeted my friend cheerily by her first name After asking how she was, he gave her an injection and was gone. Another young orderly left his laden food trolley outside and brought in a covered lunch tray. He whisked off the insulated lid and moved briskly on to the next room. The food was hot and certainly looked and smelt appetizing; chicken soup, fish croquettes and hot chips with a side dish of paella. A fresh roll in a cellophane wrapper and an orange rounded off the meal. Exactly thirty minutes later another orderly popped in to remove the tray.

Translation service and patients’ rights.
No sooner had she gone than a member of the Costa del Sol Hospital’s excellent voluntary interpreters team called in. She wanted to know if our friend needed any help or liaison with the medical staff. She was making a daily call on all the foreigners to make sure they lacked for nothing for the sake of language.  As our friend the patient ate, I read a colourful yet discreet sign on the wall. It outlined the rights of the sick in Andalucía from prompt admission and attention through to confidentially and full medical reports and records on discharge. Our friend certainly seemed to be receiving all the attention all she was entitled to.

The heavy rains from the night before had stopped and the sun was shining for the first time for some days when we left. Dark clouds still hung over the Sierra Bermeja range of mountains which create the micro climate for which Marbella is so well known. The air was fresh and the car was pleasantly warm as we pulled back onto the busy CN 340 road.