Madrid forced to abandon hospital privatisations

27th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

Madrid's regional government on Monday abandoned plans to privatise six public hospitals, which had sparked angry street protests and lawsuits by doctors, after a court ruled against the project.

The authorities had said the plan was necessary to save money, but crowds of health workers demonstrated monthly last year, saying the privatisations would harm healthcare and make it more expensive for users.

"We have decided to drop this project," the president of the Madrid government, Ignacio Gonzalez, told a news conference on Monday, adding that regional health minister Javier Fernandez-Lasquetty had resigned.

The announcement came after Gonzalez's conservative administration lost an appeal to the regional high court against an earlier judgement that ordered the plan to be suspended.

The court said in a ruling that legal uncertainties over the privatisation process raised the risk of "damage" to the regional health system "that would be difficulty or impossible to repair", according to a written summary.

Tax-funded public healthcare is provided free of charge to registered users in Spain.

The Madrid hospital plan was part of a nationwide drive to save billions of euros on public services such as health, which is managed by the powerful regional authorities.

"We continue to think that this is a legal and viable management model," Gonzalez said of the privatisation plan.

The budget cuts were imposed by the central government in 2012 in its bid to fix the public finances as concern for Spain's stability rattled the euro zone.

© 2014 AFP

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