Doctors, patients rage at Madrid hospital cuts
Doctors, patients rage at Madrid hospital cuts
“At half past three I saw he was not well. I called our private health care provider and they told me they had no doctors available,” she said, standing in her local Madrid hospital, festooned with angry red-painted banners.
“So I called the public health service. They sent an ambulance. He got to hospital by ten to four. They saved his life by being so quick,” added Maria, who would not give her surname.
“We have a health system that is the envy of the world and they want to dismantle it, and we will be the ones to pay.”
Maria attends daily meetings of concerned citizens at Madrid’s La Princesa University Hospital, where she and her family have been treated — and now she and other users have been joined in their outcry by doctors.
Crowds of medics in white coats protested on Monday at hospitals across the capital, including La Princesa general, which authorities want to convert to a special care unit for the elderly, part of broader cost-saving measures.
They launched a strike from Monday to Thursday to try to force the Madrid regional government to change its plans, with a shorter stoppage by other hospital workers on Monday and Tuesday to be repeated on December 4 and 5.
Madrid’s conservative regional government insists its hospitals plan is necessary for Madrid to meet its tough deficit targets and denies it is privatizing or dismantling La Princesa.
“We have an excellent system of quality public health for all, but in the current situation we do not have enough revenue for it all to keep working as it does,” it said in a statement.
“The reduction we have to make in health spending in Madrid is equivalent to the current budget of two hospitals. The most direct route would have been to close hospitals, but this government believes there are alternatives.”
The Madrid government said it planned to make savings in the 2013 budget by outsourcing non-health services such as cleaning to private companies and hiring private firms of doctors to provide health care in some centers.
That “is a common model in Europe” and “generates greater incentives and motivation for professionals,” it said.
On Monday minimum services were in operation to ensure emergency rooms stayed open as doctors demonstrated at hospitals such as La Princesa and La Paz in northern Madrid.
Appointments to see the doctor were disrupted, however, with long queues in some waiting rooms.
“Our colleagues told us they had to reschedule a lot of appointments,” said Rosa de la Morena, an administrator at La Paz, who attended a meeting on the cuts on Monday evening in a crowded hall there.
“But they made sure patients who came from outside town saw the doctor.”
Protesters hung banners from hospital facades reflecting their conviction — widespread among victims of Spain’s finance crisis and recession — that the private sector puts profits before care.
“We want to be patients, not customers,” read one banner.
“If you cut health care, you cut life,” read another.
Spain’s regions are under pressure to curb spending as the national government seeks to cut seven billion euros ($9 billion) a year from the health budget.
“The central government is already cutting spending,” said Cristina Diez, 29, an internal medicine specialist at the Hospital Gregorio Maranon in central Madrid.
“If in addition to that they privatise, it is to try and make health care profitable. We are against that,” she added.
“They are using the crisis as an excuse to do what they have been planning to do for a long time. We want to demonstrate until the Madrid government stops its plan.”
Workers warned that a little-reported aspect of the cuts was the effect on many non-medical staff who fear being laid off if services are outsourced.
“The current contracts expire on December 31. Then I may end up on the street,” said Milagros, 44, a cleaner at a hospital in southern Madrid, attending the meeting in La Paz.
“We temporary workers are going to disappear. It affects cleaners, cooks, maintenance workers, seamstresses — all the non-sanitary sectors. And patients have no idea that it is happening.”
In la Princesa, Maria left the protest committee’s meeting room where participants had placed in one corner a cardboard coffin with a cross on the lid.
“We Spaniards built this system together,” she said. “Now they want to sell it.”
France’s Macron at White House, Mount Vernon as state visit begins
- French President Emmanuel Macron received the full red carpet treatment at the White House as he begins his state visit to the US
- Macron is set to address a joint session of Congress
WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday kicked off a pomp-filled three-day state visit to the US at the White House — a test of whether his studied bonhomie with President Donald Trump can save the Iran nuclear deal and avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war.
Before getting the full red carpet treatment at the White House — payback for wooing Trump with military parades and a dazzling Eiffel Tower dinner in Paris last July — Macron took an impromptu stroll to the Lincoln Memorial with his wife Brigitte.
Hailing the “very important” visit, Macron then rolled into the West Wing from Lafayette Square — named after the storied French general who fought in America’s war for independence — beneath dozens of fluttering tricolor French flags and before a full US military color guard.
Waiting at the door, the US president smiled and held out his hand for Macron to shake, and the French leader kissed him on both cheeks.
The pageantry — designed to underscore Trump and Macron’s “friendship” — comes in stark contrast to the bare-bones one-day working visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the week.
But beyond the 21-gun salutes and dinners of lamb and “Burnt Cipollini Soubise” lurks high political danger for the 40-year-old French leader.
Trump is deeply unpopular in France and Macron, like other world leaders — from Japan’s Shinzo Abe to Britain’s Theresa May — is under growing pressure to show voters the benefits of his courtship with the 71-year-old Republican.
Looming over a joint outing to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate on Monday evening, and working meetings and a state dinner on Tuesday, are two May deadlines that have the potential to wreck already fragile trans-Atlantic relations.
Biting trade sanctions on European steel and aluminum will enter into force on May 1 unless Trump agrees to sign a waiver. If he refuses, there are fears of a full-fledged trade war.
Meanwhile, France and other European nations are battling to save a complex nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump will scuttle if he refuses to waive sanctions against Tehran by a May 12 deadline.
Iran says it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program — which the West suspects is designed to produce a bomb — if Trump kills the deal.
European officials say Trump’s demand to reopen the deal are impossible, and are scrambling to address his concerns on Tehran’s missile testing, inspections and the regime’s behavior in the region.
There is growing frustration in European capitals that Trump’s stubbornness over the Obama-era agreement is diverting attention away from other pressing issues.
In an interview broadcast on the eve of his arrival, Macron went on Trump’s favorite television channel, Fox News, to make his pitch.
“If you make war against everybody,” Macron said, “trade war against Europe, war in Syria, war against Iran — come on — it doesn’t work. You need allies. We are the allies.”
Macron will also be keen to temper Trump’s instinct to precipitously pull the US military out of Syria, amid cooperation in fighting the Daesh group and coordinated strikes on chemical weapons installations operated by Damascus.
“I think the US role is very important to play,” he said.
“Why? I will be very blunt. The day we will have finished this war against ISIS — another name for Daesh — if we leave, definitely and totally, even from a political point of view, we will leave the floor to the Iranian regime, Bashar Assad and these guys.”
In public, both countries are keen to emphasize their historic relationship — recalling that France was the first ally of American revolutionaries fighting for independence.
Macron brought with him an oak sapling that he and Trump planted at the White House on Monday as a symbol of friendship.
It comes from near the site of the Battle of Belleau Woods in northern France, where 2,000 US Marines perished at the end of World War I.
The pair, clearly relaxed, also briefly visited the Oval Office before heading to Mount Vernon.
On a personal level, despite sharp differences in political background, age and lifestyle, the presidents seem to have struck up a bond as fellow outsiders who outwitted the establishment to gain power.
“We have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides,” Macron told Fox News.
Trump himself told Macron their “friendship” was “unbreakable” during his trip to Paris last year.
When asked about their first encounter — a much-scrutinized six-second handshake during a NATO summit in May — Macron acknowledged it had was a “very direct, lucid moment” that had set the tone between them.
“And a very friendly moment,” he added. “It was to say now, we will work together.”
On Wednesday, the centrist leader will demonstrate his English-language skills — a rarity for a French president — in an address to a joint session of Congress.