Jan.07 - Thousands of health workers demonstrate in Madrid against the regional government's decision to outsource the management of six hospitals and 27 health centres to private companies. Rough cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION Thousands of public health workers took to the streets of the Spanish capital on Monday to demonstrate against Madrid's regional government decision to privatise the management of six hospitals and 27 health centres as part of a reform package of austerity measures. The march kicked off a series of demonstrations planned by the doctor's union AFEM over the year to protest against the regional government's cost-cutting measures. AFEM members were on strike for five weeks while the reforms were being discussed and called off the walk-out on December 28, a day after the regional government approved the plan to outsource the management of six hospitals and 27 health centres to private companies. Members of the union and their supporters still hope they can negotiate certain terms despite the approval of the law, hence their decision to continue to take their protests to the streets. Spain's public healthcare and education sectors are run by each of the 17 autonomous regions. Despite promises before a general election in November 2011 not to touch the welfare state, the ruling People's Party say they have been forced to take a U-turn on health and education and must save 10 billion euros ($13.14 billion) this year as part of austerity measures to reduce Spain's public deficit and as a result the heavily indebted regions have also been required to save costs. The healthcare system faces some 15 billion euros in unpaid debts, the conservatives say. Public health spending was $3,067 per capita in 2009, below an average of $3,361 per capita in the OECD club of wealthy nations, based on the latest available data. Spain's welfare system has provided state-financed health since the country's transition to democracy began in the 1970s.