Regional Government in Madrid performed an unexpected back track on their plans to reform the structure and function of La Princesa hospital in the capital.
On October 31, regional Popular Party (PP) premier Ignacio González announced that the pioneering research hospital, which has stood for more than 150 years, would be turned into a specialist centre for the treatment of over 75’s only.
This was a shock, considering La Princesa is my local hospital. Also upon visiting there I couldn’t quite believe how busy the place was; it is not as though the services it provides the community aren’t sorely needed. Without treating adults of all ages, where else would the patients go? Surely another hospital couldn’t cope with stresses and strains of extra people to attend to, not to mention to services that would be lost to the community if La Princesa was made ‘redundant’ of its current functions.
The reason for La Princesa’s importance in my local area is that it offers the community 40 specialist treatments, which include; brain surgery, facial reconstruction surgery, and thoracic and cardiac treatments. Also, the population it serves exceeds a quarter of a million (just within its catchment area).
La Princesa is an important piece of the public service jigsaw. A large ‘player’ to try and maim without backlash.
This Government has proposed health cuts previously, and they didn’t go down well with the populace either; so what were they thinking? Well, they they haven’t been obviously as it seems a panicked move to quickly ‘save money’. A false economy in the long run though, with more people unemployed, less health care, more illness and strained services; kind of like cutting of your nose to spite your face.
If the Government had listened at all to the messages of the previous strikes and protests, they would have realised and taken seriously how their electorate felt about such cuts. Yet, they haven’t. So, on the 16th November I was out and about in the evening, and managed to witness another massive protest carried out by the staff and patients of La Princesa. It was moving to watch.
The people were obviously frightened that the hospital would close; losing the services it provides and lose staff. Health care is a vital public services, and public services in any recession are essential for the life blood of the country and the Government. To meddle without good cause will create havoc in the community, and soon make any political party unfavourable. It seems ridiculous to merely chop away in such a careless fashion at a service much required.
There has even been a petition gained of over 200,000 signatures, one signatory was Madrid’s Mayor Ana Botella. Showing how far the discontent reaches with Government proposals.
From the retaliation of the community, and the hospital staff, PP representatives of the Madrid region’s health department met with The Hospital Workers’ Committee. Funnily enough after this there was a backtrack on the original scheme to curtail La Princesa’s range of services. A concord was reached that the hospital will retain its current status, and continue to treat adults of all ages, and the teaching and investigation it performs too.
Labour unions however remain sceptical and continue to accuse the regional government of acquiescing to private businesses. Allowing private companies free rein to manage the hospitals, although the buildings are being constructed with public money.
These fears have credence as premier Ignacio González proposals already highlight; administration of six recently built hospitals will be soon tendered out to the private sector. More saving money, yes, that and more cuts to the budget. Planned healthcare spending in the region for next year has been cut by seven percent (which is roughly 45% of the budget for health for next year). So this is indeed another attempt to save money, and repay Spanish debt; but at a cost to health and well-being.
Though there has been a Government opinion ‘turn around’ on La Princesa, protests will continue. The people want this ‘turn around’ to be presented formally and documented in writing.
Does that denote a severe lack of distrust for this ‘Popular Party’ Government (ironic name)? Yes, I think so. I suppose their track record already supersedes their words.
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