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Monday 26th August 2019

Spanish march against healthcare selloffs

15th January 2013

Spanish demonstrators have continued to take to the streets of the nation's capital Madrid during the New Year in protest at plans to privatise some of the publicly owned healthcare system.


The protesters, largely made up of healthcare service users and employees, chant slogans and carry banners saying, 'Public health must be protected not marketted', 'Murdering health care cuts' and 'They save the banks and close down the hospitals'.

Sunday's "white tide" protest, so called because many of the protesters wear white medical uniforms, was the second such march this year.

Protesters gathered in central Madrid and marched through the city, chanting "Public health care should be defended, not sold off".

Plans include the sell-off of the management of six out of 20 of the biggest public hospitals in the Madrid region, along with 10% of health clinics, to private companies.

Officials blame the economic crisis for the move, saying the reforms are sorely needed to swell government coffers.

But many say the motive is a political, rather than a financial, one.

According to 47-year-old protester Mario Sola, private enterprise would be unwilling to buy hospitals that couldn't make money.

Spain governs its healthcare and educational affairs via its 17 regional governments and parliaments, not by central government.

Governments are now struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the collapse of the property market in 2008, and in the midst of a double-dip recession.

Regional governments are now barred from borrowing any more cash after overstretching themselves on the back of the property boom.

Now, many are asking for bailouts from central government.

Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty, regional health councillor for Madrid, called the protests irresponsible.

He said that everyone was fighting to defend the same thing.

However, protesters have repeatedly demanded Fernandez-Lasquetty's resignation.

Meanwhile, trade union leader Jose Gabriel Gonzalez Martin said there had been some personnel moves from the civil service to private medical analysis companies that had aroused suspicion of unfair dealings behind the scenes.

Perhaps the moves were a coicidence, he added.

Madrid’s public health care users and workers have been protesting since late last year against the plans of the regional goverment presided by Mr Ignacio González.

The first 'white tide' march took place in November, followed by a union-backed march which attracted more than 15,000 people according to police and 70,000 according to the unions.

That protest was held at the end of a 48-hours strike by healthcare workers.

Workers have also staged lock-ins in at least 20 hospitals in the capital since the plan was announced.

In a Twitter-linked campaign, advertised on the hashtag #abrazaTuHospital (hug your hospital), thousands of people made human chains around health centres.

However, the regional Health Minister said the action was simply 'a show of affection' to the health centres and to those who work in them.


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