Tens of thousands of health workers protest in Spain

18th November 2012, Comments 0 comments

Tens of thousands of Spanish doctors, nurses and hospital staff marched through the capital Madrid on Sunday to protest budget cuts and privatisations, the latest in a wave of demonstrations against deeply unpopular austerity measures.

Dressed in white, the protesters chanted "Public health!" and "Health is a right. We are going to fight."

For several weeks, staff have occupied about 20 hospitals in Madrid and the surrounding area to protest the regional government's decision to privatise six of the facilities under budget cuts planned for 2013.

The health sector is paying a heavy price for the austerity policies implemented by the rightwing government of Mariano Rajoy, which is drastically trying to cut the public deficit.

Jaime Rodriguez, a 33-year-old doctor from the Leganes hospital in the Madrid suburbs, said he was there for two main reasons.

"Because the budget cuts are harming medical services for citizens, and because working conditions for staff are worsening," Rodriguez said.

For example, Rodriguez said a 90-year-old patient had to spend five days in the emergency room because there were no free beds elsewhere in the hospital.

According to government estimates, more than 800,000 people participated in November 14 demonstrations against austerity across Spain, capping a day of Europe-wide strikes and rallies.

It was the second general strike in eight months in Spain, the fourth biggest eurozone economy, which is deep in a recession that has left one in four workers unemployed.

About 5,000 police officers marched through the centre of Madrid on Saturday to protest salary cuts and the thinning of their ranks.


© 2012 AFP

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