By Jim Hayes
Up to one million people took to the streets of Spanish capital Madrid on 12 February their time). More did the same across regional cities and towns. They are demanding a stop to the privatisation of the health system and for government investment in better health services.
Video from euronews
Regions under the control of the alliance of Popular Party and pro fascist Vox have been busy handing over hospital services to private operators.
In Spain most of the health system is under the control of the governments of 17 regions.
This is causing the biggest public backlash seen in decades. One which became visible last November and is gathering pace this year. Regular protests have included many doctors, health workers, and patients. In Santiago de Compostela a regional city in Galicia 20,000 health workers took part. Doctors and paediatricians have been involved in rolling strikes. As well as defending the public health system, they are calling for better working conditions and pay for an increasing workload.
Spanish health workers protest against privatisation
Video from euronews
The campaign to defend the health system is being organised by neighbourhood groups, unions, and political organisations.
People in general are complaining that waiting times for tests and treatment are already increasing.
Isabel Diaz Ayuso , the head of the Madrid regional government, has publicly attacked protest movement as a political strike and left-wing plot aimed at the coming regional elections.
“They need instability, revolution and above all to encourage ill-feeling with regard to the Madrid region’s public services, which are excellent,” she said.
But the Madrid government was widely criticised over its handling of Covid-19, for ongoing staff shortages in hospitals and primary care centres. They have cut the wages of health workers. Diaz is embroiled in a major corruption scandal involving the awarding of multi-million contracts to a business linked to her brother.