Healthcare in Spain is uncertain about its future. Demonstrations and strikes will be held in several Spanish regions in the near future for improvements in the sector. So far, the solutions offered are disappointing.
Spanish public health is facing a difficult winter. After years of healthcare scarcity and then the pandemic, healthcare professionals and unions are saying, “Enough is enough.” Strikes, demonstrations and talks with trade unions and politicians are creating an uncertain future for the health system as it is today.
Healthcare problems in Spain from years ago
The way in which employees and trade unions deal with the situation differs per region, as does the way in which politicians and organisations want to improve the situation. Healthcare professionals advocate more time for their patients, which means they can receive fewer patients in a day. Higher wages and better working conditions are also something that every healthcare worker in Spain would like to see happen. Despite the regional authorities making promises to accommodate the care workers, the real solutions are extremely disappointing, according to the professionals interviewed by the Spanish newspaper El Diario.
Strikes have been taking place in primary care in the Madrid region for some time now. The Amtys union is currently awaiting Minister Díaz Ayuso for new proposals to improve care.
Balearic Islands and Aragon
In the Balearic Islands, an agreement was reached at the end of December on a wage increase and organisational improvements. Healthcare institutions in Aragón also recently achieved the same thing. For example, a limit was set here on the number of patients per doctor per day; a maximum of 35 in primary care and a maximum of 28 in paediatrics. Employees were also promised more money.
Last Friday, Andalucia was called for a strike within primary care to get rid of the prevailing bureaucracy, precarious working conditions and the shortage of doctors. GPs indicate that because they are so overburdened, they cannot provide the right care to their patients. In many practices, GPs have a quota of 1,500 patients per GP. Consequently, the sector is calling for this to be reduced to around 1,200.
According to research by the Federation for the Protection of Healthcare in Spain, almost two out of four general practitioners exceed the limit of patients they are allowed to look after. The situation is most dire in the Balearic Islands; almost 90% of GPs have more than 1,500 patients under them and more than 16% exceed 2,000 patients.
Within the Catalan care sector, a strike has been called for on 24, 25 and 26 January. Two trade unions demand wage increases for their staff, more people to be hired and the possibility of a voluntary pension from the age of 60. More people have been hired in recent months, but often the training they have received is insufficient, so that they are still unable or not allowed to perform various tasks.
A 2020 OECD report showed that Spain had too few nurses compared to the rest of Europe. In Spain there were then an average of 6.1 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. The EU average was then 8.3 per 1,000 inhabitants.
There will also be strikes by doctors in Extremadura on January 26 and 27. Many more mature doctors are thinking about early retirement. Here too, care is overloaded and doctors have to treat too many patients per day. There is a dire shortage of doctors. The same is happening in Navarra and doctors will go on strike ‘indefinitely’ from February 1.
A solution to the problem
Although the measures announced by trade unions in the various Spanish regions differ, according to the trade unions and healthcare professionals, there is one joint solution to this problem that can be taken as a starting point to secure the future of healthcare in Spain: “The key is It’s about relationships: many doctors and nurses have too many patients under their care. If this problem can be tackled, we will go a long way.”