Spaniards protest health care reforms

by Harold Heckle
A protestor wears a mask reading, "Public health care" during a demonstration against regional government imposed austerity plans to restructure and part privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain's regions are struggling with a combined debt of 145 billion euro ($190 billion) as the country's economy contracts into a double-dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

(AP)—Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest plans to privatize parts of their public health care system, with some questioning the motives behind the government's actions.

The march by employees and users of the system is the year's second large "white tide" demonstration, named after the color of the medical scrubs many protesters wear. Several similar marches took place last year.

Demonstrators thronged main boulevards in the center of the Spanish capital, carrying banners saying, " should be defended, not sold off."

The Madrid region has proposed selling the management of six of 20 large in its jurisdiction and 10 percent of its 268 centers. It says these reforms are needed to secure health services during Spain's .

Protestors march as they carry a banner reading, "Public health care" and "24 hours strike" during a demonstration against regional government imposed austerity plans to restructure and part privatize health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. Spain's regions are struggling with a combined debt of 145 billion euro ($190 billion) as the country's economy contracts into a double dip recession triggered by a 2008 real estate crash. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

But protesters were skeptical.

"This measure is politically inspired and not financial," said Mario Sola, 47. "If public hospitals were unsustainably loss-making as we're being told, private enterprise wouldn't be interested."

Health care and education are administered by Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than by the central government.

Many regions are struggling financially as Spain's economy has shrunk due to a double-dip recession following the 2008 implosion of the once-prosperous real estate and construction sectors.

Some regions overspent during boom years, but are now excluded from borrowing on the financial markets to repay their accumulated debts, forcing them to seek savings and even request rescue aid from the central government.

Regional health councilor Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty called the protests irresponsible and said that "everyone has their point of view, but we are all fighting to defend the same thing."

Jose Gabriel Gonzalez Martin, president of Spain's Independent Civil Service Trade Union Center, said many people's suspicions were aroused when former government health officials acquired jobs with private companies lining up to take over medical analysis functions.

"It might be purely coincidental, but some coincidences are surprising," Gonzalez said.

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Large Spanish protest against health privatization

Jan 07, 2013

(AP)—Thousands of Spanish medical workers marched through downtown Madrid on Monday to protest against budget cuts and plans to partly privatize their cherished national health service.

Thousands in Spain protest health privatization

Dec 17, 2012

(AP)—Several thousand Spanish public health workers and other people marched from four main hospitals in Madrid to converge on a main square in the capital Sunday, protesting the regional government's plans ...

Thousands protest Spain's health care austerity

Dec 09, 2012

(AP)—Thousands of Spanish medical workers and residents angered by budget cuts and plans to partly privatize the cherished national health service marched through some of Madrid's most famous squares on ...

Madrid health center directors quit en masse

Jan 08, 2013

(AP)—More than 300 directors of some 140 health centers in Madrid resigned from their posts Tuesday to protest plans to partly privatize the region's public health service.

Spain to save 10 bln euros with health, education reform

Apr 09, 2012

The Spanish government, which last month introduced a tough 2012 budget, said Monday it expects to save another 10 billion euros ($13 billion) by making public services like education and health care run more efficiently.

Recommended for you

Older adults are at risk of financial abuse

4 hours ago

Nearly one in every twenty elderly American adults is being financially exploited – often by their own family members. This burgeoning public health crisis especially affects poor and black people. It merits the scrutiny ...

Medical internet could transform health care

4 hours ago

The medical Internet is not yet here, but the widespread availability of electronic medical records and enhanced data-storage capabilities are pushing it closer to reality. As now envisioned, this new cyberspace ...

User comments