“You don’t sell public health care – you defend it!”
Today, December 27th 2012, is a black day in Spanish social services history. The Madrid Assembly approved a law which allows the “externalization of the management” of various hospitals in Madrid. This means privatization with public monies heading into private management pockets and patients being expected to pay for medical services or being obliged to take out costly medical insurance as in the US.
Spain has free medical services and this is the first step toward privatizing medicine in this country and making life even harsher for the 5.6 million unemployed and people who have lost their jobs and their homes, as well as those upon whom the Rajoy government is forcing wage cuts.
The President of the Comunidad de Madrid, Ignacio Gonzalez, who has been instrumental in forcing this legislation through, has had the gall to say that he is willing to enter into a dialogue with striking doctors protesting against this neoliberal axe coming down on the socialized medical services in Madrid. It will not be too long before other regions in Spain follow suit as the central government prefers to save the bankers by having the public pay for their errors and embezzlement. The EU bailouts will eventually fall on to the shoulders of the public with higher direct and indirect taxes and by having their social services and right to a decent education for their children cut to the bone.
On December 16th thousands Spanish public health workers and other people marched from four main hospitals in Madrid to converge on a main square in the capital Sunday, protesting the regional government’s plans to restructure and part-privatize the sector.
The marches, described as a “white tide” because of the color of the medical gowns many were wearing, finally met mid-afternoon in the central Puerta del Sol. On Monday, the region’s health councilor will meet with a committee responsible for coordinating professional services and union representatives to try and agree how to achieve €533 million (US$697 million) in savings.
In early July the EU agreed to bail out the Spanish banks with US$123 billion on the condition that the Spanish government implements austerity packages to cut public spending. Bearing in mind that it was the banks’ greed and risky lending to overpriced real estate projects which sparked the financial crisis in Spain, combined with a national debt that is more than 60% of the GDP, the public is now having to pay for these “misjudgments” which will eventually force Spain into the status of a third world country again.
During the protest march doctors, nurses and public health users — grouped into four columns —marched from leading hospitals located in the north, south, east and west of the capital.
“Our health care system is going to be damaged,” said Alberto Garcia, 26. “Patients are doomed to get a much worse service and this will just make us poorer.”
Health care and education are administered by Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than the central government and Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 large public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers to private corporations.
The Spanish Debt
Spain’s regions are struggling with a combined debt of €145 billion (US$190 billion) as the country’s economy contracts into a double-dip recession triggered by the 2008 real estate crash. By electing a neo liberal government such as that of Rajoy and the Francoist Partido Popular, the Spanish voters are really getting what they voted for. At least Rajoy is true to his “principles” and he is rewarding the Spanish population with:
• Police brutality
• More taxes
• Impunity for most bankers
• Medical services being privatized
• Human dignity being stripped away month after month
Just look at the figures. The Spanish capital needed just US$697,000,000 to save the public health service but the banks which effectively screwed themselves and the country got US$123,000,000,000. Madrid only needed 0.57% of this amount to maintain the integrity of its health system and prevent it falling gradually into capitalist hands. What about families with children who are destitute? Is there no compassion left when it comes down to saving the “too big to fail banks”, by denying bankruptcy which is one of the fundamental pillars of capitalism. It cleans out the system of the diseased and weak.
No-one can tell any right thinking person that this is not a political-ideological decision. With just one iota of political will this total injustice could have been avoided.
Some Enlightening Comparisons
Venezuela: Here in Venezuela we are watching in horror as Spain is gradually morphing into Greece II and at the same time observing how in our country: houses are being built for poor families; a national health service is being constructed piece by piece; banks are too scared to take unnecessary risk too feed their greed since they know that they will be immediately nationalized.
Hundreds of Venezuelan families who sold everything and moved to Spain in order to escape the Chavez “tyranny” are now homeless, jobless and cannot get back to their home country. They are appealing to the Venezuelan government to repatriate them, give them work and put them on the list for a home of the Grand Housing Mission currently underway in Venezuela. How ironic is it that 95% of Venezuelan residents in Spain voted against President Chávez in the October 7th presidential election – and now they are begging to be saved from their own folly – just like the bankers.
While we empathize with the Spanish people and the looming loss of their health-care system to the capitalists, many must accept part of the blame by voting in Rajoy and his neoliberal gang of thug ministers.
The UK and NHS: What is happening in Spain is inevitable and a similar situation is developing in the UK where the Welfare Reform Bill has passed the two Houses of Parliament and signed into law by the Queen. This implies at least partial privatization of the National Health Service but the silver lining of this dark cloud for the British public could mean that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties could be banished for many decades from government for this betrayal of British voters. Just use Google to discover that no-one – Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour – would have voted to privatize even part of the UK National Health Service.
Higher education is now out of reach except for all but the wealthy (university applications are down by 54% this year) and the beloved National Health Service could also soon be sacrificed to the neoliberal ideology of David Cameron who is ensuring that public money is poured into private coffers.
Rajoy and his gang in Spain will also be dumped in the next elections by the voters. If you are in service to the banks and big business expect the end of your political career to come sooner rather than later in the financial maelstrom of the crumbling European Union edifice.
- Defending Public Healthcare in Madrid (counterpunch.org)