Thousands protest in support of public healthcare in Madrid

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MADRID – Tens of thousands of Spanish public health workers and their supporters staged a demonstration on Sunday to demand more primary health care workers and to protest what they claim is the progressive dismantling of the public health system in favor of private providers by the conservative regional government in Madrid.

The demonstration in the Spanish capital, dubbed the ‘white tidal wave’ because of the white medical coats worn by many protesters, took place under the slogan “Madrid stands up for public health.”

The Madrid region is at the center of the protests. Partial strikes began in the region last Monday, with a full strike called for November 21 for nearly 5,000 doctors in Madrid.

The protest was called by neighborhood associations, trade unions and left-wing political parties.

The regional government of Madrid led by the Popular Party’s Isabel Ayuso has come under fire in recent years, and especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, due to poor staffing in hospitals and primary health care centers.

Organizers say that while Madrid is the Spanish region with the highest per capita income, it is also the one that spends the least amount per capita on primary health care. They claim that for every 2 euros spent on health care in Madrid, one ends up in the private sector.

“The people of Madrid deserve quality primary health care and not delays of more than a week to see family doctors or pediatricians,” says the AMYTS doctors’ union.

Ayuso denies there are staff shortages and claims the protests and strikes are being orchestrated by left-wing parties in the run-up to municipal and regional elections next year.

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