Spain doctors protest privatization

Spanish police stand in front of health workers during a protest outside the regional assembly in Madrid on December 4, 2012.

Thousands of doctors and health workers have staged a protest in the Spanish capital to express discontent with plans by the regional government of Madrid for the privatization of healthcare services and austerity cuts.

The demonstrators took to the streets in central Madrid on Monday, carrying banners that read, “Healthcare is up for sale so politicians can make money.”

Some demonstrators were blowing horns and banging drums, while a number of others were wearing white scrubs.

The demonstration in the Spanish capital is the latest in a round of similar events described as a ‘white tide.’

The regional government of Madrid plans to privatize six hospitals and 27 health centers of the 270 in the region, insisting that the sell-offs and cuts are necessary to secure health services during a deep recession.

Lucia Munoz, one of the protesters, said, “I don’t think it’s fair that the taxes we all pay are going to go to private companies to provide our healthcare.”

“Those companies have to make a profit, so they are going to cut whatever they can” including jobs and budgets, Munoz said. “That is going to affect the quality of healthcare.”

On December 20, 2012, Spanish lawmakers voted for further cuts in the 2013 budget, which slashes spending for healthcare and education, and reduces pensions.

The fourth largest eurozone economy, Spain must lower its deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014. Economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for the country’s economic recovery.

The Spanish economy slid into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.