Tens of thousands of Spanish public health workers and their supporters staged a demonstration on Sunday to demand more primary healthcare staff, and to protest against what they say is the progressive dismantling of the public health system in favour of private providers by the conservative regional government in Madrid.
The protest in the Spanish capital, dubbed the “white tidal wave” because of the white medical coats worn by many protesters, took place under the slogan “Madrid rises up for public health”.
The Madrid region is at the centre of current protests. Partial walkouts started in the region last Monday, with an all-out strike called for November 21 for nearly 5,000 Madrid doctors.
The protest on Sunday was called by neighbourhood associations, labour unions and leftist political parties.
The Madrid regional government, led by the Popular Party’s Isabel Ayuso, has come under fire in recent years, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, for poor staffing in hospitals and primary healthcare centres.
Organisers say that although Madrid is the Spanish region with the highest income per capita, it also spends the least amount per capita on primary healthcare. They say that for every two euros spent on healthcare in Madrid, one ends up in the private sector.
“The people of Madrid deserve quality primary healthcare and not delays of more than a week to see family doctors or paediatricians,” said a local doctors’ union.
Ayuso denies there are staff shortages and says the protests and strikes are being orchestrated by left-wing parties in the run-up to municipal and regional elections next year.