Wednesday, December 7

From the newborn to the retiree: Madrid turns to defend health

At the end of Paseo del Prado, in Atocha, little Sol, seven weeks old, slept soundly on her father’s lap, unperturbed by the enormous hubbub of people who continued to arrive at the place to participate in the demonstration in defense of public health . Sol had suffered the consequences of the hardships of the Madrid health system when she was still in her mother’s womb: the appointment for a pregnancy monitoring test was given for a date after her delivery. The girl was born well and today she slept peacefully, but her parents, Marta Seror, 35, and Julio Galego, 31, who moved to Madrid from Cantabria two months ago, could not believe the delays in appointments . “In Santander [la sanidad] it’s bad, but compared to here, the feeling is different”, says the father.

PHOTOS | The demonstration for public health in Madrid, in images

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The family made these comments while waiting for the Atocha column – one of the four that marched through Madrid on its way to Cibeles – to begin to advance, although in reality it was already moving. The headwaters ran at the height of Neptune, but since people continued to arrive in floods, it seemed that the platoon was still. At that time, 30 minutes passed from the start time of the demonstration, scheduled for 12:00, but the impression that the influx was going to be massive was already sensed before, in public transport, with a crowded subway, in which the cars were to overflowing, to which people who do not usually use it because they live outside the capital, and it was not clear that the traditional Atocha stop is now called “Art Station”. From other entry points to the city, such as the Príncipe Pío station, hundreds of people also left in the direction of Ópera, another of the points of origin of the march.

From Atocha to Cibeles, a diverse and much more intergenerational atmosphere was appreciated than in previous calls. There were many older people, but also families with small children and groups of young people. For example, that of Francisco Pérez, 27, an unemployed worker from Móstoles, with a speech that went beyond the trigger for the protest, which was the reorganization of primary care: “Neoliberalism is putting an end to public health, that it is a right”, he affirmed, happy and somewhat surprised that the Paseo del Prado, occupied entirely by protesters, was “petadismo”. Also young are Fidel Castro, 26, who is studying a master’s degree in teaching and assured that this is his real name, accompanied by Cristina Baños, 27, a legal advisor. “The privatization of healthcare is being paid for by the users. [Estamos aquí] against cutting back on services, against neglect, against having to take out private insurance with money we don’t have,” she pointed out. Castro admitted that today’s youth are demobilized. “It is a generation that is moved by sentiment, reactionary”, for reasons that, in her understanding, respond to the errors of previous generations of the left, also to the individualistic sign of the times. This was not the case today, where youth groups were numerous among the protesters.

For the first time in a long time, the presence of Madrid residents in the center exceeded that of tourists on a sunny Sunday. A foreign couple asked a local policeman how they could get to the Prado Museum from the other end of the street, and the agent explained to them in English that it was difficult for them, given the crowd. A food delivery man, surprised by the mass, had had to get off his bicycle and was barely moving in the opposite direction, with a serious face, without protesting. Pablo Díaz, a 67-year-old computer scientist from Toledo Street in Madrid, exuded irony: “The president [Isabel Díaz Ayuso] he is doing things correctly, according to what a person with that profile should do”. Díaz understood, like many of those present, that the chaos in primary care in recent weeks is not due to a planning error, but to the conscious weakening of the public health system, and that the government of the Community of Madrid today follows the path of cuts opened with the transfer of health care to the autonomous communities almost two decades ago.

Ayuso and the “original reason”

The sarcasm of some was the anger of others, such as Luis Rojas, 77, who was marching through the Prado with Concepción Ledesma, 74. Rojas is particularly bothered by the tone of Ayuso’s interventions. “He sells greatness, as if he had the original reason. But no, ma’am. She is a ghost, only the chains are missing. Let’s see what she says tomorrow”, she placed, after criticizing the “total fraud” that, in his opinion, supposes the concerted health model.

Félix, 72, and Edel, 68, came from Alcobendas. He said that they have given him an appointment for a colonoscopy in a year. “It can’t be,” he lamented. The couple said that a friend with a shoulder injury has an appointment for an ultrasound at the end of January. And now in the Sierra [se van a arreglar] with a nurse? Or with a video call? But if there are older people who don’t even have a computer!, she protested.

Inma Gil, 71, from Usera, criticized the saturation of public transport and the lack of support. “The buses arrived full and did not stop.” Finally, she managed to get on the subway. Gil lit up as she began to speak. “It cannot be, the first thing is health. Not only [está mal la sanidad] here, but in Madrid it is exaggerated. And the doctors now say ‘tomorrow to such a place’! But is that [en la Comunidad de Madrid] They can do whatever they want?”. At that moment, the white handkerchiefs of the protesters began to wave in bullfighting fashion – most of them made of paper, almost nobody uses cloth ones anymore – to the cry of ‘public health’, soon followed by ‘Ayuso, resign’.

Minutes passed, but the density of the demonstration did not decrease, despite the fact that many of the participants, overwhelmed, filtered through the side streets to take a break. The Cibeles fountain had become a kind of heart that pumped people tirelessly. There were students, there were unemployed, there were retirees, there was even an inspector from the Bank of Spain, one of those who take luxury vacations on the coast as a salary supplement, also critical of the health management of the autonomous government. The reading of the manifesto, with Cibeles crowded, did not end until after 2:30 p.m. The organization estimated that 670,000 people had participated in the protest. The government delegation had counted 200,000.

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