Thousands of healthcare professionals in the Valencia region called for a strike

by Lorraine Williamson
Valencia healthcare staff

VALENCIA – It is rumbling in Spanish care. After strikes in Madrid, doctors resigning on their initiative and demonstrations expressing dissatisfaction with working conditions, healthcare professionals in the Valencia region have now also been called upon to strike. 

Lack of agreement between the trade unions and the regional Ministry of Health is the reason for this. Furthermore, the strikes will be repeated in April and May unless an agreement is reached sooner. This strike started on Monday and is the first strike for the region in 20 years, both in primary care and specialised care. 

Related post: Primary care in Spain in protest against major staff shortages 

The negotiations were conducted between the Ministry and the trade unions, in particular with the Medical Union (CESM). This organisation continued to steadfastly call for the protest, with the support of several other professional organisations. 

Meanwhile, Public Health accuses the Medical Union of having unilaterally broken off the talks. The minister believes there are no reasons for this extreme mobilisation. In the province of Alicante, around 10,000 healthcare professionals have been called to support this strike. This will be repeated on April 3 and May 8 if no agreement is reached in advance. On Friday, the last attempts were made to prevent Monday’s strike. But, these negotiations did not lead to an end to the call for the first strike day. 

However, the ministry is optimistic about reaching an agreement with the unions in the coming week. Consequently, this could mean that the planned protests for the coming months will be cancelled. 

Staff under great stress 

The point is that healthcare professionals want better working conditions with a working week of 35 hours. Several widely varying factors lead to the health system deteriorating and the workforce being under great stress. 

Althought the pandemic has dealt a huge blow and aggravated the situation, the problems were already there. Due to major budget cuts after the financial crisis that started in 2008, there is a structural shortage of personnel. This gives the staff extra work pressure. Add to this the long waiting lists and the saturation of primary care. There is also the increasing problem of healthcare professionals looking for work in other autonomous regions or even abroad, in search of a better life. 

According to the CESM, supported by the Valencian Association of Family and Community Medicine, that of Pediatrics, the Primary Care Forum and the College of Doctors of Alicante, the system as known until now has collapsed. As a result, a reconsideration of all determinants is urgently needed to get it back on track. 

Availability of healthcare in Valencia region

The Ministry of Health indicated on Friday that it will continue to focus on negotiation and dialogue to jointly make progress on measures to strengthen the healthcare system and the working conditions of nurses, doctors and specialists. 

Minister Miguel Mínguez told the regional press that the strike has no basis because “some of the demands of CESM have already been met”. According to Mínguez, the region “was at the forefront of hiring the people it already had in the covid era, structurally incorporating these places into the system. He pointed out that “we are starting to see a drop in surgical waiting lists interventions”, which numbered 87 people in January. The minister calls for patience in this regard because the effects of the policy “take a while”. 

Related post: Collapse of primary care and A&E imminent in Spain  

The regional manager is also optimistic about reaching an agreement to prevent the primary care doctors’ agenda from becoming saturated. The ministry wants to set a maximum of 35 patients per day, while the CESM requires a maximum of 28. Mínguez assures that “between 75 and 80%” of professionals already see less than 36 patients a day. He does admit, however, that in the rest of the cases that limit is exceeded. That is why we must work hard to prevent this from happening again in the future. 

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