The acting Ombudsman, Francisco Fernández Marugán, denounced this Thursday in the Congress of Deputies that during 2020 the pandemic “pushed public health services to the limit”, with a “national health system that experienced its worst crisis” history and that “was overcome” by the health emergency. However, Fernández Marugán has warned that Spanish public health already “showed some shortcomings and weaknesses” since before the emergence of COVID-19, which were “highlighted” with the virus.
In the presentation of his 2020 annual report before the Plenary of the Lower House, the defender has denounced that patients with conditions other than the coronavirus “have been relegated” and “thousands of surgical interventions have been delayed” so today there is “a problem of very long and deep waiting lists”. In this area, Fernández Marugán has demanded from the administrations “reinforcement plans in the most affected specialties.”
But the defender has gone further and has denounced the situation of “profound fragility” in health emergencies and primary care. Fernández Marugán has therefore demanded “more staff and more equipment, to retain public health professionals, more permanent quality employment” as well as to “remunerate” these professionals “in accordance with their professionalism and ongoing training.”
“The situation of primary care cannot be delayed any longer,” warned the defender, who has called for “reinforcement plans for the appropriate centers, professionals and technical means.” “We find that the largest items in the budgets of the autonomous communities correspond to health, but there is a chronic deficit of funding in primary care, public health and mental health,” he stressed.
Fernández Marugán has also placed special emphasis on the situation of young Spaniards. It has denounced that in the case of this area of the population, the constitutional rights of access to a job or a home are not fulfilled. “The current generation of young people has a horizon of scarce, low-level and temporary jobs,” he lamented, before insisting that “the educational system” is “poorly adapted to the needs of the job market.”
The “profound xenophobia” suffered by African migrants
Regarding the difficulties of access to housing, the defender has assured that in the different territories “public rental housing should be provided targeting young people and vulnerable people with fewer resources.” “If young people cannot access decent jobs and access housing, it is difficult for them to consider having children. They need an adequate economic and social framework,” he remarked.
The defender has also denounced that “African immigrants continue to be victims of deep xenophobia”, for which he has called for “changes in the approach to migratory phenomena.” “It is an urgent set of policies that avoid having to adopt improvised measures,” he added, given the “dysfunctions of the current reception system for immigrants in Spain.”
“We need immigrants, that the EU welcomes them, but we don’t want them to have to risk their lives to come here,” he warned. For this reason, he has asked Spain “to lead an orderly immigration policy.”
“Unbearable levels of precariousness” in public employment
Fernández Marugán also lamented that in 2020, as a consequence of the pandemic, “there was more poverty” in Spain and that the percentage of families with severe material deprivation reached 7% compared to 4.5% a year earlier. They are, in his opinion, “bitter data”, for which he considers that “it is quite evident that the policy of the governments had to lead to the implementation of strong and persistent measures of social support.” “The families had to reduce their well-being by truncating their recovery process,” he added.
At the beginning of his speech, the defender recalled that the pandemic forced administrations to “urgently hire personnel in health, education and essential public services.” But he stressed that despite the fact that “there was never as much public worker as now”, the reality is that temporary employment and precariousness increased considerably. Moreover, Fernández Marugán has spoken of “temporary and precarious levels” of public employment “hardly bearable”.