Thousands Take To Streets To Protest Health Funding Cuts

Healthcare workers took to the streets of Madrid yesterday, Sunday 19th May to protest against the right-wing regional governments handling of the regional  public health system, accusing  them of undermining it through spending cuts.

Under the slogan of “Madrid rallies in support of public healthcare and against the plan to destroy primary care services,” four columns of protestors descended upon the capital from Nuevos Ministerios,  Hospital de la Princesa,  Plaza de España and Atocha reaching the Plaza de Cibelses for the rally in front of Madrid´s City Hall.

According to the Madrid authorities some 18,000 people took part in the demonstration, although the organisers claim almost ten times that number.

Police cordoned off the Plaza Cibeles as demonstrators vented their anger, carrying placards saying “The right to health is a human right. Defend the health service.”

One demonstrator sported a huge model of Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the right-wing leader of the Madrid regional government and a fierce critic of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government, with a Pinocchio-like nose attached.

“We are once again defending our public health as the heart of our welfare state and of our society. What is being defended here today is democracy and the health of our citizens,” Health Minister Monica Garcia, a former hospital anaesthesiologist, told reporters.

Unions and left-wing parties complain about long waiting lists and a shortage of staff in health centres, forcing patients to overwhelm hospital emergency departments.

Diaz Ayuso’s opponents say her administration spends the least amount per capita on primary health care of any Spanish region even though it has the highest per capita income.

Many government critics believe the conservatives are dismantling the system. Madrid’s regional government denies the accusation.

Spain has a hybrid healthcare system but the public sector is larger than the private one and is considered a basic pillar of the state.

The regional governments of Spain´s 17 autonomous communities are primarily responsible for health matters.


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