“White tide” of health demonstrations spreads from Madrid to 15 other cities

Thousands of medical professionals and healthcare users take to the streets

Protestors take to the streets to demonstrate against health cuts in Barcelona on Sunday. / Marta Perez (EFE)

The “white tide” is spreading across Spain. For the first time on Sunday, 15 other cities, including Barcelona and Valencia, joined Madrid in staging street protests over cuts to public healthcare.

For the fourth time this year, thousands of medical professionals and public healthcare users marched on the streets against austerity policies that have seen nearly seven billion euros axed from central and regional health budgets in the last three years. This reduction represents over 10 percent of total funding.

In Madrid, protestors also chanted against the regional government’s plans to privatize six hospitals and 27 local health centers.

“Public services are being dismantled, and if we don’t do something about it, we have a lot to lose,” said Raquel Diezma, 37, a nurse at a health center in Getafe.

After converging on Puerta del Sol, protest leaders read out a message promising new marches in defense of the system.

Madrid Health Commissioner Javier Fernández-Lasquetty said he will go ahead with plans anyway, because it will save money. “The march is an attempt to keep stretching out a conflict to the benefit not of the citizens or society or public health, but of those who want to keep playing a role or have a banner to wave,” he said.

Meanwhile, at a street protest over home evictions on Saturday, a young Socialist leader had to be escorted to safety by police after a small group of radicals began shouting insults at her. Beatriz Talegón, who left Saturday’s march in tears, rose to public prominence last week after excoriating Socialist leaders’ hypocrisy at a meeting in a luxury hotel.

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