In Madrid, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in defense of public health

In Madrid, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in defense of public health

In Madrid, hundreds of people demonstrated in defense of public healthcare

Protest march in Madrid against the changes made by the government of the Madrid region to the public health financing system, February 12, 2023.

Madrid – Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid to protest against the government of the autonomous region of Madrid and against the changes its government made to the public health financing system. 200,000 people took part in a similar demonstration last November. Now the police estimated the number of participants at 250,000, the organizers according to press agencies at almost a million.

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Protesters, including many health professionals, gathered to the sound of drums and whistles in various parts of the capital before gathering outside City Hall with banners such as “Health is not for sale, health is defended.”

The demonstrators demanded from the regional government to devote more funds to the public health service, which has been suffering from a lack of staff and money for months. They accused the regional government of favoring private healthcare providers.

“In Spain, the public health system was very good. But it has deteriorated sharply in recent years, especially after the pandemic,” said Ana Santamaría from Madrid, who came to the protest with her friend Susana Bardilla. “You now have to wait weeks to see a doctor. As a result, people go to emergency rooms that are completely overcrowded,” said Bardill, who said the system “hurts both health workers and patients”.

Today's demonstration , called by civic associations, is the third mass protest organized in the Spanish capital in the last three months. Similar protests were also held on January 15 and especially on November 13.

Part of the doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since November 21 at the call of the main trade union of doctors in Madrid. They demand better working conditions and higher salaries.

“They have reduced our income instead of increasing it. We are overwhelmed with work and have no support. We are in danger of extinction,” 61-year-old Lilian Ramis, who heads the El Molar health center, told Reuters.

“Directors (for operations ) are endless. We can't keep up with it,” said nurse Maite Lopez, who came to the demonstration so that she said health workers could finally be heard. “The situation is dramatic, we cannot take good care of the patients,” she complained to the AFP agency.

Dissatisfaction with the failure of the health system has also affected other regions of Spain in recent months, which is a highly decentralized country and where public health is managed by regional authorities. It is in Madrid that the protests are strongest.

The president of the regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayus, who is a right-wing politician, has repeatedly accused the protesters of being motivated by political interests. Ayus denies that her government is deliberately liquidating public healthcare in favor of the private sector.