Thousands of doctors and nurses went on strike across Spain’s Madrid region on Tuesday as part of a protest against plans for privatization of the public health system.
The protest shut down all but urgent care in 34 hospitals and dozens of health centres in the autonomous community of Madrid, a region of 6.5 million people which includes the capital.
“This will affect the quality of service at these hospitals, without a doubt,” said Susana Hernandez, 45, doctor of internal medicine at one of the hospitals on the target list. “They move the flow of patients to benefit the privatised hospitals, while the companies’ first priority is always profit. We’ve asked for their figures to show how much they’ll save, but their stats show this sale is a bargain (for the companies).”
Doctors and nurses also held an unofficial referendum, asking members of the public to vote on whether they supported or opposed the sale. They asked bypassers to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the privatization of Spanish Health system during the non binding popular referendum.
Over 200,000 people cast symbolic votes against the plan in what is the first of five one-day strikes scheduled to be held over the next five weeks.
Doctors, nurses and other health workers believe that the plans to externalize services will lead to a reduction in the quality of patient care in the region. They also complain that the government had not put forward concrete figures as to just how much money would be saved by the privatizations.
The regional government refuses to give credibility to the vote.