BUDGET CUTS

Valencia ties doctors' hands over free healthcare for immigrants

Conscientious objectors voice plans to continue treating migrants without papers

They will have to deal with such patients on their own time, says regional commissioner

Doctors working in the public health service in the region of Valencia who object to the removal of free healthcare services for undocumented immigrants will have to attend to such patients outside their working hours and without using public facilities, the regional commissioner for health, Nela García, said Monday.

As part of the government's austerity drive to rein in the public deficit, as of the start of September, some 150,000 immigrants who do not have residency papers will no longer have access to the free treatment they have been entitled to on the public health system.

Those immigrants who wish to continue to receive medical care are likely to have to pay 710 euros a year in order to do so under government plans. Over-65s will have to pay double, although pregnant women, minors and those with refugee status will continue to receive free care.

A total of 77 doctors in the Valencia health system have so far signed up as conscientious objectors to the new policy.

García said the regional government accepts the concept of conscientious objection but insisted that doctors who wish to continue to provide free healthcare will have to do so out of their own pockets and in their own installations.

Andalusia, Asturias, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands and Catalonia have voiced objections to the central government's imposition of the removal of free healthcare, warning of the possible dangers to public health as a result. The regions in question, which account for about half of all the illegal immigrants in Spain, have said they will study how to continue to offer free services.

Catalonia has said it will guarantee all outpatient treatment, but is looking into ways to also treat patients who have to be hospitalized.

 

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