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HEALTHCARE

Spain’s hospital waiting lists hit historical highs on austerity

Average wait leaps to 100 days from 76

571,395 people are in need of surgery

Budgetary restrictions and the laying off of healthcare personnel have resulted in a record number of people awaiting surgery in Spain: 571,395, a 6.4-percent increase in a little over a year. Average waiting times have also gone up from 76 days to 100, the worst figures since the Health Ministry started recording these data in 2004.

Furthermore, the number of patients waiting more than six months to be admitted to hospital has risen seven percent, despite this timeframe being the maximum permitted by law for certain types of procedure.

The figures were published on the Health Ministry website with no announcement and there has been no official comment on the data. A ministry spokesman limited himself to saying that it had merely compiled figures provided by the regions and that health management, and therefore admissions, are their responsibility.

In Madrid, waiting lists have grown by a record 17.5 percent, which regional health chief Javier Fernández-Lasquetty directly attributed to strikes by health workers against privatization in the region's service.

Cutbacks in the central government and regional health departments began in 2010, with the reduction in healthcare spending since that year now totaling 6.875 billion euros. But the impact has been uneven, with regions such as Extremadura, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Aragon among those which have cut the deepest. The Basque Country, which is considered to be the least inclined to implement such austerity measures, has cut back on health spending by four percent this year.

"Without medical professionals, and without means, the health system cannot keep up," said Tomás Toranzo, vice secretary of the CESM medical union.