Madrid hospitals strike against crisis cuts
Doctors and staff at public hospitals in Madrid launched a strike Monday complaining that authorities plan to privatise health services to save money in the financial crisis.
Crowds of doctors in white coats demonstrated outside La Paz hospital and others, where minimum services were in operation, and collected signatures for petitions against the regional government's 2013 budget plan.
"Public healthcare is not for sale, it is for defending," read their banners.
Spain's regions are under pressure to curb spending as the national government seeks to cut seven billion euros ($9 billion) a year from the health budget.
In Madrid, the conservative regional government plans to make savings by outsourcing and reshuffling services. Protestors say this will undermine healthcare.
"We want to demonstrate until the Madrid government stops its plan," said Cristina Diez, 29, an internal medicine specialist at the Hospital Gregorio Maranon, a major hospital in central Madrid.
"The central government is already cutting spending. If in addition to that they privatise, it is to try and make healthcare profitable. We are against that," she added.
"They are using the crisis as an excuse to do what they have been planning to do for a long time."
The CESM medical union announced a strike for Monday and Tuesday to be repeated on December 4 and 5. The Madrid specialists' association AFEM called for a longer strike this week, from Monday to Thursday.
On November 18, tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other staff marched in Madrid in one of many mass demonstrations against crisis spending cuts in various sectors over recent months.
Beatriz Marquez, a trainee pharmacist working in the laboratory at Gregorio Maranon, said transferring samples away to private companies for lab analysis would complicate work in the hospitals.
"If a private company comes into public healthcare, it will lead to a worse quality of service," she said.
© 2012 AFP