Alarm about Spanish healthcare system: unacceptable waiting lists and too few beds

by Lorraine Williamson
waiting lists

MADRID – The Federation for the Defense of Public Health in Spain (FADSP) is sounding the alarm. The report of this club speaks volumes: long waiting lists, a high medicine budget and a worrying shortage of hospital beds. 

According to the report, public spending per capita on specialised care increased by an average of 34% between 2010 and 2020. In the Comunidad de Madrid, this even shot up to 39%, while in La Rioja an increase of only 18% was recorded. But there is a catch: if you do not include the costs of medicine, the percentage drops to only 53.2%. 

Three crucial conditions 

The report sets three conditions to justify the expenditure. First, the general health budget per inhabitant should be around €1,000, in line with the EU average. Secondly, the medicine budget must remain below 14% of the total. And finally, privatisation expenditure must be reduced. 

Criticism of Madrid’s leader Ayuso 

Marciano Sánchez, the president of FADSP, is clear in his criticism of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of the Madrid region. According to him, Madrid has an obsession with privatising public health care, which is detrimental to quality. 

Bed shortage 

The number of available beds in Spain has decreased from 3.4 in 2010 to 3.2 in 2021. In Madrid, the situation is even worse with only 3.18 beds per 1,000 inhabitants in 2021. These figures are well below the EU average (5.21) and the OECD (4.4). 

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Waiting lists 

The report points to a small improvement in nationwide surgical waiting lists in 2022. However, in Madrid, waiting lists are ‘incredible’, with an average waiting time of 61 days. “Ayuso claims that things are going well, but that is simply not true,” says Sánchez. 

Regional differences are large 

The report also highlights regional differences in spending and consultations. For example, the number of external consultations varies from 2,870.94 per 1,000 inhabitants in Madrid to 1,790.95 in Navarra. There are also large differences in expenditure on health care concerts: from 23.9% in Catalonia to 2.8% in Castilla y León. 

Increasing privatisation 

In 2021, privately financed care increased by 9%, while publicly financed care increased by 6%. This points to a growing trend of privatisation and an explosion in drug costs. Regarding the workforce in Specialised Care, there was also an increase of 20.2% between 2010 and 2021 and in all autonomous communities. In 2021, the workforce ranged between 11.1/1,000 inhabitants in Valencia and 21.69/1,000 in Navarre. 

Also read: All you need to know about insurance for expats

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