Tens of thousands of Spanish health workers protest regional government cuts

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By Euronews  with Reuters
People gather during a protest in support of public health care in Madrid, Spain. Sunday, 15 January 2023.
People gather during a protest in support of public health care in Madrid, Spain. Sunday, 15 January 2023.   -   Copyright  Manu Fernandez/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Tens of thousands of health workers took to Madrid's streets to protest healthcare cuts by the conservative regional government.

Wearing white coats and banging drums, many chanted: "cutting public health is criminal."

Approximately 30,000 protesters attended the demonstration, a regional government spokesman said.

Madrid's regional government, led by the Popular Party’s Isabel Diaz Ayuso, has been heavily criticised in the past few years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, for poor staffing in hospitals and primary healthcare centres.

Protesters say it is damaging the health care system by dismantling public health services and favouring private health providers.

Moreover, the rally’s organisers claim that, despite Madrid being the country’s capital and one of its wealthiest regions, healthcare funding per capita is among Spain’s lowest.

"We have about 40 or 50 patients per day and can give them about six minutes each. The problem is that they do not allow us to give proper care to patients," Ana Encinas, 62, a doctor who has worked in primary care in Madrid for 37 years, told Reuters.

One protester came dressed as the Grim Reaper, holding a sign reading, "I am Ayuso's plan for (the) emergency ward."

Ayuso denies allegations that her administration is undermining public health services in favour of the private sector and says the demonstrations are being orchestrated by left-wing parties in the run-up to municipal and regional elections this year.

Last November, tens of thousands of people marched through central Madrid in support of health workers demanding better working conditions.