Story highlights

The king did not need to be moved

He had surgery for herniated discs

Spain is the midst of a deep crisis

Madrid CNN  — 

A small fire broke out Wednesday at a Madrid hospital where King Juan Carlos is recovering after surgery.

The 75-year-old king was on the other end of the La Milagrosa hospital and did not need to be moved, the royal household said. He has been recuperating after undergoing an operation for herniated discs.

It is the fourth operation on the king in the past year. The others were for hip problems.

Three hospital staffers suffered slight smoke inhalation, a Madrid fire official said. They were treated and released.

Firefighters moved four patients to other hospitals because some of the equipment needed for their treatment was damaged in the fire.

Spaniards generally hold the king in high regard for his service to the nation and his defense of democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 – especially the king’s decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981.

But Spain is in the midst of a deep crisis, with 26% unemployment, nearly 6 million Spaniards out of work, and the government applying austerity cuts and tax increases to make up for budget shortfalls.

And while the king himself had repeatedly expressed his concern over the impact of the crisis, Spaniards have in recent months expressed discontent at scandals affecting the royal family.

The king was criticized for a hunting trip to Africa last year in the midst of the crisis, and the king’s son-in-law is a suspect in a fraud scandal that has created unprecedented problems for the royal family.

The royal household had a budget of 8.26 million euros ($10.8 million) last year.