Several thousand health workers returned to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest what they claim is the dismantling of Madrid’s public healthcare system by its right-wing regional government.
It follows a previous demonstration in November last year, when around 200,000 rallied in the capital in defence of the region’s primary care, warning plans by the regional government to overhaul the system would ‘destroy’ local healthcare.
On Sunday, around 30,000 people attended the rally, according to the local authorities. They carried signs with slogans that translated into English as ‘SOS Public Healthcare’ and ‘Stop Privatisation’, the protesters clamoured against staff shortages and criticised what they consider the favouritism shown by regional authorities towards private healthcare providers.
Primary care services in the Madrid area have been under huge pressure for years due to a lack of resources and staff, forcing more people to turn to hospital emergency departments which are now overwhelmed with patients in a situation with echoes across Spain.
This week, the SEMES emergency service workers association said Madrid’s A&E departments had seen a ’10 -20%’ increase in patients while the ADSP, which also represents health professionals in Madrid, said 300 people were waiting in corridors for a bed.
The demonstration comes amid a wave of strikes over public healthcare shortages across Spain, with strike action planned or threatened in at least eight of its 17 regions.
The event on Sunday in Madrid was the latest in a series of protest actions, including strikes, by the region’s public health workers against the region’s government, which is led by Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the People’s Party (PP).
The unions that organised Sunday’s rally said Madrid spends the least amount per capita on primary health care of any Spanish region, even though it has the highest per capita income. They claim that for every two euros spent on health care in Madrid, one ends up in the private sector.
Ayuso has alleged the protests were motivated by the political interests of left-wing rivals ahead of the May regional elections across most of Spain.
La situación de la #SanidadPública en Madrid es crítica, no es solo una lucha solo de sanitarios, es el pueblo de Madrid que lleva meses en la calle y frente a los centros de salud reclamando lo que es de sentido común, que la sanidad no se vende, se defiende. pic.twitter.com/lIZC5iuRXE— Carolina Alonso (@Carolalon1) January 15, 2023