Healthworkers have taken to the streets of Rome in protest over government plans to cut the number of hospital beds in the capital by 1,000.
The proposed reductions are part of a budget plan for 2013, which passed a third vote of confidence in the Senate overnight.
Technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti gave the clearest indication yet that he looks set to stand in Italy’s upcoming election.
The former economics professor said he would resign once the 2013 budget was in place, but a visit to a Fiat factory carried all the hallmarks of electioneering.
Monti is under pressure to stand after bringing a debt crisis, which threatened to spiral, under relative control.
Monti says he will show his cards over the weekend.
The crucial 2013 budget has undergone a number of changes in the Senate and returns to the lower house for approval later today.
Parliament will then be dissolved and an election called by President Giorgio Napolitano.