Doctors, nurses, patients and those living in the region in general joined demonstrations in Granada, Málaga, Huelva and Sevilla cities, with smaller versions organised in other towns in these four provinces.
Those who took part – some 55,000 in Granada alone, according to National Police officers on duty – called for a ‘fair and dignified health service’ and for Andalucía authorities to ‘sit down and negotiate’ with professionals in the sector.
Demonstrators in Granada – led by Dr Jesús Candel, known as ‘Spiriman’ because of his work in the medical Spiribol Foundation and his organisation of numerous protests – railed against plans to lump hospitals together in the new Technological Health Park in the city.
They want to see ‘complete hospitals’ with varied and different services that take patients right through from diagnosis to final treatment.
Granada hospital system is ‘fragmented’, says Dr Candel, who complained the only spokesperson for the regional authorities is Andalucía’s president, socialist (PSOE) Susana Díaz.
The Sevilla march brought some 10,000 people out onto the street, many in white coats and carrying white balloons, and led by the organisation Marea Blanca (‘white wave’) which is fighting for decent and full healthcare for everyone and an end to funding cuts across the country.
Management of the medical service should be in the hands of professionals in the sector, not politicians, says Marea Blanca spokesman Pepe Baena.
Marchers were joined by the party United Left, whose leader in the region, Antonio Maíllo, criticised the ‘lack of two-way discussions’ and the ‘triumph-filled speeches’ on the part of the government of Andalucía, which he says ‘annoys patients’.
Left-wing party Podemos – United Left’s coalition partners at national government level – joined the various protests, but the PSOE’s direct rival, the right-wing PP, did not.
A total of 20,000 people gathered in Málaga, clamouring against hospital beds being shut over Christmas, overcrowding in A&E, and the continued absence of a third hospital for the city which medics have been calling for now for years.
Another 25,000 marched through the city of Huelva, the capital of Spain’s furthest south-western coastal province, complaining about plans to merge the Infanta and Juan Ramón hospitals when the metropolitan area needs two complete hospitals plus a separate maternity unit.
‘Don’t bite the hand that cures you’, banners read, and, ‘Susana, open all operating theatres and take on more staff; your Andalucían nurses are desperate’.
PSOE spokeswoman for equality and social policy, Soledad Pérez, said the demonstrations were ‘purely political’ and blamed the leftist parties for stirring up trouble.