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AUSTERITY

Cuts to healthcare spending putting Spaniards’ lives at risk, report finds

Austerity kills is the message of a study published by the ‘British Medical Journal’

Austerity measures could mean the dismantling of a large part of the Spanish health system and significantly damage the health of the population, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday.

The authors of the report warn that if the trend does not change, there is a risk that Spain will experience a spiral of health problems that could mean an increase in infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV.

One part of the research consisted of interviewing 34 doctors and nurses in Catalonia. The majority said they felt “shocked, numbed and disillusioned” about the cuts, and some expressed fears that the austerity measures would “kill people,” the researchers said.

The report highlighted that healthcare and social services cuts of almost 14 percent at the national level and of 10 percent at the regional level in 2012 had coincided with an increase in demand for care, especially on the part of senior citizens, the disabled and the mentally ill.

Researchers also identified an increase in cases of depression, alcoholism-related diseases and suicides in Spain since the crisis began.

“If no corrective measures are implemented, this could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis, as we have seen in Greece, where healthcare services have had severe cuts, as well as the risk of a rise in drug resistance and spread of disease,” said Helena Legido-Quigley, a lecturer in global health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who worked on the study.

The report also noted that Spain had one of the lowest healthcare budgets in the European Union as a proportion of GDP.