Madrid hospitals to extend strike: unions
Spanish health workers vowed Wednesday to repeat a strike in protest at plans to privatise hospital services in Madrid, which they say threaten jobs and healthcare.
Six unions representing doctors, nurses and other hospital staff said a new strike was planned for December 19 and 20 after two full 48-hour stoppages in the capital region this week and last.
Specialist doctors in Madrid meanwhile are on an open-ended strike four days a week to demand, like the other workers, that the regional government scrap its cost-cutting plan which involves outsourcing services to private firms.
"As well as a loss of quality of care if this plan goes ahead, there will be the loss of up to 8,000 jobs," said Jose Manuel Freire, leader of the nurses' union SATSE in a statement announcing the new strike for later this month.
The unions also said they planned another mass demonstration on December 16 in central Madrid, dubbed a "white tide" on previous occasions when crowds of doctors have protested in their white lab coats.
During the strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and last, minimum service has been in operation and emergency rooms have remained open with no serious disruptions reported.
Hospitals have been draped in banners with angry messages against the reform.
Madrid's conservative regional government insists its plan is necessary for the region to meet its tough deficit targets and denies it is privatising or dismantling hospitals.
Striking workers, and many patients who are fiercely protective of the public health system, say private providers will put profits before quality and fire thousands of support staff in favour of cheaper replacements.
© 2012 AFP