The centre of Madrid was brought to a standstill yesterday, Sunday 12th February, as over 250,000 people ( the organisers claim closer to a million) demonstrated against the “deteriorating resources for public health in the region brought about by the conservative Partido Popular regional government.
Health workers were joined by patients, trade unions and left wing political parties including the regional leaders of PSOE, Unidas Podemos and Más Madrid.
Vista de la plaza de Cibeles desde el edificio del Ayuntamiento.
— Álvaro Minguito (@AlvaroMin) February 12, 2023
Many carried homemade signs repeating the central message of the organisers that “the right to health is a human right. Defend the health service.”
The Madrid government has been the target of criticism since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, over poor staffing in hospitals and primary healthcare centres.
Protesters say it is dismantling public health services and favouring private health providers.
The Madrid regional premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, denied her government was dismantling the health service saying she believed in public health.
She claimed the demonstrations are motivated by the upcoming regional elections across much of Spain in May.
However health care workers claim that Díaz Ayuso’s administration spends the least amount per capita on primary health care of any of the 17 Spanish autonomous regions even though it has the highest per capita income.
Public health is a largly devolved matter in the hands of the regional governments.
During the pandemic the central government had considerable difficulty coordinating a national response to the situation with the left wing central government of Pedro Sanchez often at loggerheads with Ayuso´s right wing Madrid government.