Hundreds of thousands rally across Spain against attack on public health services

Health workers and progressive political groups in Spain have condemned the conservative regional administrations in Madrid, Galicia, and Castilla y Leon over the plight of public health services

February 13, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
A massive mobilization in Madrid in defense of public health services. Photo: PCE

On Sunday, February 12, massive mobilizations took place in several cities across Spain, organized by health workers, trade unions, and left-wing groups. The protesters demanded an improvement in public health services, which are currently suffering from a lack of resources and understaffing.

Protesters at a major mobilization in Madrid, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, condemned the apathy of the regional government led by the conservative People’s Party (PP) towards the needs of the public health sector. They also protested bids to privatize health care. The march in Madrid was organized by several organizations, including the Federation of Associations in Defense of Public Health (FADSP), and was backed by political groups including Communist Party of Spain (PCE), Podemos, the Communist Party of the Workers of Spain (PCTE), and others.

Alberto Cotillas from the Madrid Society of Family and Community Medicine told Peoples Dispatch that the “march was held in Madrid in support of the public health system. Another objective was promoting a satisfactory end to the primary care conflict involving family doctors, pediatricians and the primary care emergency service. The demonstration was attended by more than 200,000 citizens and was widely shared by the media. On the next morning a meeting between the unions organizing the primary care medical strike (in its tenth week) and Madrid’s regional government took place, reaching no agreement, mainly because of the regional government’s reluctance to increase the budget for primary care (Madrid is in the bottom with respect to investment in primary care among Spanish regions).”

While participating in the mobilization at Madrid, leader of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) Enrique Santiago said that the regional government in Madrid was trying to degrade public health to push for the privatization of health services. “We have to unite and mobilize  in large numbers  to stop them,” he added.

Mobilizations organized by by the SOS Public Health Platform, the Galician Association for the Defense of Public Health, the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), and others took place in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The protesters condemned the deteriorating healthcare system in the autonomous community after years of cuts by the PP-led regional government. The protestors also pushed for a Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP), which calls for a “67% increase in the budgetary resources of the primary care centers of the Galician Health Service.”

In Burgos in Castilla y León, a mobilization spearheaded by the Platform for the Public Health of Burgos criticized the PP-led regional government’s policy towards public health. The march was attended by members of the PCTE, the Collective of Young Communists (CJC), and others, who demanded that the “city’s university hospital be restored to all public health services.” Last month, progressive sections in Castilla y Leon also protested anti-abortion moves made by the right-wing regional government.

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed the under-funded and understaffed public health system in Madrid and several other regions of Spain to the brink. In Madrid, community organizations and left-wing groups have been protesting the worsening of public health services and demanding that the regional government immediately ensure the allocation of adequate funds to ensure recruitment to save the sector. The People’s Party (PP)-led regional government, headed by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has not heeded these demands. Protests, including strikes by health workers, as well as major mobilizations, took place in Spain in October and November last year, and January this year.

Also Read: For Madrid’s health workers, the strike for better conditions is about the spirit of primary care

The mobilization in Mobilization at  Santiago de Compostela. Photo: BNG

On Sunday, SOS Public Health stated that the “aim of the demonstration in Santiago de Compostela is to denounce the terrible state of the Galician Public Health and request that the Popular Legislative Initiative (ILP) be approved in the Galician Parliament with all the urgent and necessary measures to solve the problems created by the destructive mismanagement of the Xunta de Galicia.”