Mass protest demands better health care in Madrid

AFP , Sunday 12 Feb 2023

More than 250,000 people demonstrated on Sunday in Madrid in support of the capital region's ailing public health service, which is suffering shortages of staff and equipment.

Spain Protests
Protesters march to support the public heath service in one of four columns which will meet in the centre of Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. AP


The primary care system in the Madrid area has been under pressure for years due to a lack of resources. So people are increasingly turning to hospital emergency departments, overwhelming them with patients in a situation also seen in some other regions.

Careworkers were among the protesters banging drums and blowing whistles across the capital before converging on city hall.

"Health is not for sale" said protest banners.

Organisers claimed almost a million people joined the demonstration to demand that the regional government -- accused of prioritising private health -- put more resources into the public system.

Officials said 250,000 people turned out.

"In Spain, the public health system used to be very good," Madrid resident Ana Santamaria told AFP.

"But in recent years it has really deteriorated, particularly since the pandemic."

- 'A&E overwhelmed' -
Her friend Susana Bardillo added: "To have an appointment now, you have to wait weeks. So people go to accident and emergency, where they are totally overwhelmed.

"The professionals are badly treated and the patients are badly treated," Bardillo said.

Sunday's protest was the third demanding more resources for health organised by groups representing Madrid residents over the last three months.

The last protest was held on January 15 and the first on November 13, when 200,000 people turned out, according to an official count.

Some primary care doctors and paediatricians have been striking on and off since November 21, with the Amyts doctors' union in Madrid seeking better working conditions and pay.

"The waiting lists never end. We cannot keep up," nurse Maite Lopez told AFP at the protest. "The situation is dramatic... We can't take proper care of the patients."

The region's right-wing leader, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, has repeatedly claimed protestors are motivated by "political" interests.

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