Fly on the wall documentary series Benidorm ER followed holidaymakers and expats who found themselves sick or injured and needing medical attention while in the resort. Made by Blakewell North for Channel 5, film crews were based at the private Hospital Clinica Benidorm where they shadowed the medical team in emergency and subsequent follow up treatments.
But not all cases required a trip to the hospital – Dr Torres at the Centro Medico dealt with many non-emergency cases and referrals. To date four series have been made, the first aired in 2012 and the final last year, in which Dr Torres has been a regular face. His centre has moved location since the first series, from next to Uncle Peds (opposite Hotel Riviera) to Avd Castellon – between the main Avd Mediterraneo and Levante promenade, not far from the Casino Mediterraneo.
Dr Torres is easy to spot, with his trademark moustache and glasses. But who is he and how did he come to feature in the popular documentary series. Dr Ismael Torres was born in Puerto Rico where his great grandfather had a sugar plantation – his mother is from Asturias in Northern Spain.
The idea was to sell the plantation and move back to Spain – but it took 14 year to achieve that. At the age of 13 Dr Torres was sent to high school in America followed by a degree in Biology, which he undertook as part of the ROTC program – the Reserve Officers Training Corps with the dream of entering the Armed Forces. He was commissioned to Fort Brack in North Carolina with the ambition of becoming a tank commander in military intelligence…. but an issue with his heart put a stop to that and so he entered medical school instead. In his second year he transferred to Madrid, where he completed his medical degree and training then hoped back to Bell Vue Hospital in New York, where he performed surgery for 4 years then went on to specialize in pediatrics.
In 1988 he came back to Spain and moved here to Benidorm. He started working at Villa Joyosa hospital and also the private Hospital Clinica Benidorm but spent 6 months over the summer season in Ibiza – where he saw far worse than he’s ever seen in Benidorm! Apparently the Germans are far more disorderly than the Brits when it comes to raucous behavior – and Dr Torres has dealt with more than his fair share of drink fuelled incidents there.
Dr Torres has picked up some very British habits – must be living here in Benidorm that has done it! He starts every morning with a full English breakfast – something that he admits is not so good for his cholesterol, but simply cannot resist. As well as Spanish and English he also speaks fluent French, Italian and German - from his Ibiza days. He took lessons as when he first arrived he would have to take an interpreter and sometimes it took forever to find someone. His Spanish wife is also a doctor and sometimes covers at the centre and his daughter is carrying on the family tradition as she too is currently at medical school.
Such is the fame that came from the series that he is often recognized and greeted in the street or supermarket – and always asked when he will be on the television again. One English lady still calls him after visiting her own GP back in the UK to ask his opinion when she has been prescribed something – he tells her that if her doctor has told her she needs it then she must listen to him, he cannot examine her over the phone!
The new centre is fully equipped and also has a dental surgery within it. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 8pm and available for emergency callouts 24/7. When he was filming he told me that often one of the hotels would ring, saying that a holidaymaker was “ill” and needed a doctor.
Frequently he had no idea what he was in for – a broken toe or heart attack and the crew would be in the car with him. He would always go in to see the patient first, access them and ask, if appropriate whether they would be happy to take part in the program before cameras were allowed in. He thoroughly enjoyed his time with the crew and especially with the lovely British people, many of who are regular visitors and come back to see him each year. Lets hope that Blakewell do decide on another series – this year they were busy filming for a new show “Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun’ – which starts on Tuesday.