June 21. 2024. 2:46

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Madrid protestors stand up against privatisation of public health


About 250,000 people took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to defend the public health system, protesting against the ‘dismantling’ of the primary care network in the Spanish capital carried out by the right-wing regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, organisers said.

Protests under the motto “Madrid stands up and demands public health and solutions to the Primary Care Plan” began in different parts of the city on Sunday at noon.

According to official sources, 250,000 people participated in the protests, though organisers put the figure at about one million, local media reported.

Demonstrators, including doctors, nurses, and ordinary citizens, chanted slogans such as “Public health”, “This way, this way, not a step back, we will win this fight”, “The people united will never be defeated”, “Ayuso, coward, the people are on fire”, and “Ayuso and his government can go to hell”.

The Red de Solidaridad Popular de Latina y Carabanchel and several other local civil society platform groups organised the demonstration.

In a manifesto, the organisers pointed out that “the health policy of the Comunidad de Madrid, which has a total of 6.6 million inhabitants, is aimed at guaranteeing the profits of companies and health lobbies, instead of being focused on caring for all people and guaranteeing our right to health.”

Protestors also urged the regional government to invest at least 25% of its health budget in primary care and public health protection.

To do so, it should repeal the laws that allow the privatisation of healthcare, as well as increase staffing levels in health centres, hospitals and emergency wards with “dignified and stable” contracts to stop the brain drain of health professionals from Madrid to other Spanish regions and other EU countries.

“Here, we are not only defending the right to public healthcare, but we are also protecting the right to a fairer and more democratic society”, the manifesto reads. “Health is a right that can only be guaranteed through public equity”, it adds.

After recalling that in November 2022, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid’s city centre to defend the public health system, they pointed out that in the last three months, “the deterioration (of Madrid’s health services) has grown exponentially.”

There has been an increase in the number of unfilled vacancies in many regional health centres, while regional health authorities, according to the organisers, have “dismantled the primary care emergency (centres), creating chaos in both rural and urban services.”

Left-wing parties and trade unions also backed the protest.

The leader of left-wing Más País (More Country), Íñigo Errejón, urged the Madrid regional government to halt its “cruel and unjust plan to demolish public health”.

“We want to live in a place where your health does not depend on your money, we want to live in a place where your wellbeing and peace of mind do not depend on your money, in a society where you can live in peace, and that does not depend on where you were born, what your surname is or what you have inherited”, Errejón defended.

Municipal elections will be held in May in Spain with general elections due in December when Spain is in the final month of its EU Council Presidency.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)