30) «Health Services Privatization in Madrid?»

by Javier Carro

Topics: Frontpage


 February 7, 2013,

Madrid’s Regional Government −Comunidad de Madrid− (Popular Party, PP) an­nounced, past January 27, its planned outsourcing of management and services at six regional hospitals, to be cancelled

Last July 2013, the regional government awarded the running of six hospitals: Vallecas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Parla, Coslada, Arganda del Rey and Aranjuez, to three private healthcare management groups: Puerto Rico’s Hima-San Pablo, and Spanish firms Bupa-Sanitas and Ribera Salud.

U-turn: Regional Health CommissionerJavier Fernández-Lasquetty (`Consejero de Sanidad´), announced his resignation (he was stepping down from his post).  Move comes after court rejects petition to lift a cautionary injunction against PP government. The region’s health chief had been pushing the privatization efforts and outsourcing of services. “I was the one who proposed this action, and I assume the responsibility for not being able to accomplish it,” said Lasquetty. Also, “We abide by judicial decisions as we have always done, even though we do not agree, as in this case,” said regional Premier Ignacio González (Presidente de la Comunidad de Madrid) at a news conference with the “former” Regional Health Commissioner Lasquetty, last January 27.

The Madrid regional High Court (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Madrid – TSJM), which has been studying a lawsuit, denied the regional government’s petition to lift a cautionary injunction it issued last September against the efforts. The new private managements were to begin in September, but in September 2013, the TSJM froze the Madrid Government to sell off the 6 hospital for cautionary reasons after it upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court. The TSJM said it wanted time to consider the matter, which it noted would leave healthcare in the hands of the private sector for 1.2 million people in the region and affect the careers of 5,000 healthcare workers in an area in which tens of millions of euros are also involved. The court also discovered irregularities in the bidding process for the hospitals.

A move that thousands of health professionals had mobilized against it, during last year, thousands of doctors and nurses went on strike across Spain’s Madrid region to protest against plans to spend less public money on health care, the most unpopular part of the government’s drive to cut costs. Medical workers planned five one-day strikes every week. The protests shut down all but urgent care in 34 hospitals and dozens of health centers in the autonomous community of Madrid, a region of 6.5 million people which includes the capital.

Of all of the spending cuts the government has made in a 6-year on-and-off recession with 27 percent unemployment, one of the most hotly contested has been to the health service, which Spaniards consider top quality and reasonably priced compared with other developed nations. ∎

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