The Valdebebas expansion continues to grow and is now approaching 30,000 inhabitants, eight years after the first residents arrived. In this PAU (Urban Action Program) in the north of Madrid, with pretensions of a settled middle class, expensive land and long avenues with multiple traffic lanes, a nucleus vaguely reminiscent of a neighborhood begins to take shape. Bars, restaurants, pharmacies and shops have sprung up on the ground floor of the housing blocks. Since last year there has been, at one end, the Isabel Zendal pavilion-hospital, now also a point of care for Ukrainian refugees, next to the rounded building of the frustrated city of justice of Esperanza Aguirre. A few weeks ago, another large infrastructure was announced: a Sanitas hospital on a 30,000 square meter plot. What still hasn’t arrived, despite the ceded land and years of complaints, is the public clinic.
‘The Madrid of swimming pools’ asks for institutes
The budgets of the Community of Madrid for 2022 once again left the health center out, recalls Mirta Veiga, president of the Valdebebas neighborhood association. “They told us that at the end of this year or in 2023 they could get the award [para las obras], bill. Meanwhile, the construction company Pryconsa has announced that next year it will start building a 100-room hospital to deliver turnkey in 2025. “Everyone who has the Sanitas card will be happy,” she says. “We are not against the public or the private, but the health center has been claiming for six or seven years,” says Liliana Ábalos, vice president of the association.
Here it is impossible to organize mobilizations
The urban planning model of the PAUs and the absence of a social fabric make local demands difficult, and the battle for the public barely reaches a skirmish. “Here it is impossible to organize demonstrations,” says Veiga. “There are four of us who pedal forward,” she adds. She believes that the average age of the residents has an influence, “young people who have no need and take their children to a private pediatrician.” To the demonstration to claim an institute, which Valdebebas also lacks, “only 100 came,” she laments.
In the surroundings of the plot given by the City Council to build the health center, few neighbors walk in the afternoon on a weekday. Grandmothers with children and some parents who come to pick up their children from school, which has long since outgrown the demand. “Everything is private,” complains Laura, 38, who is on the sidewalk with Jennifer, 34. They, mothers of three and two children, respectively, do not have private insurance. They get ready by going to their old health center, where they are still assigned despite having moved. Laura’s is the one in Hortaleza, 10 minutes by car, 30 by public transport, an hour if she happened to go on foot. Both recognize that the lack has not generated major protests. “Through high school there was a ‘bike ride,’” recalls Jennifer.
“Every year before the elections, the same thing,” criticizes Lourdes, 35, a few meters away, who complains about the unfulfilled promises (the PP achieved between 50% and 60% of the votes in the elections of the last year in the census tracts of the neighborhood, after sweeping Ciudadanos). She does pay for private insurance. In Valdebebas there is already a medical center, from Sanitas, “and another one is going to be opened”, she says. A woman in sportswear comes out of a nearby pharmacy, to which she has come in an SUV. Did she know that the parcel in front is for the health center? “I had no idea,” she replies. The urban fabric invites this type of short trips by car; Avenues with up to three lanes in each direction are frequent. Walking, a lone pedestrian may feel the need to excuse himself from vehicles politely stopping at crosswalks.
evil of many
The lack of sanitary equipment is repeated in other expansion neighborhoods in the north of Madrid, with nuances. In Las Tablas, for example, the health center is already under construction. The Community of Madrid did not hurry; the first neighborhood demands occurred in 2007 and the works did not begin until 2019. In these 15 years, the population has gone from just over 10,000 inhabitants to 37,000. Three years after the arrival of the pickaxes, the works still need to be completed, according to Lorenzo Álvarez, president of the neighborhood association. “It is still a skeleton”, he criticizes, although “in theory the deadlines were two years of work plus six months for start-up”. It should already be, but in 2023 there are elections; they will come to inaugurate it before”, he says. With a delay in the public endowment that already exceeds a decade, the private one has made cash. “Around 70% or 80% of the residents will be with private policies,” Álvarez calculates. HM has a hospital, Sanitas has the one in La Moraleja and a large polyclinic, he lists.
Also in 2007 the residents of Montecarmelo were beginning to mobilize. The Madrid City Council ceded a plot for the health center that same year, but the works were delayed. In a meeting with the Ministry of Health in 2018, Alberto Navazo, president of the neighborhood association, was assured that the award of the works was imminent, according to him. In the budgets for 2022, finally, the work appears budgeted, together with that of two outpatient clinics in Fuenlabrada, Parla and Móstoles. But already started April, the site continues as it was. “They haven’t even opened the gate of the fence that surrounds the plot,” complains Navazo, who opposes public shortcomings to the “variety and quantity” of existing private centers.
The tantrum as a last resort
The regional accounts also left out Rivas-Vaciamadrid, a municipality east of the capital. Rivas, governed by the left for three decades, abjures the urban model of the PAUs, but has also grown rapidly – more than 20,000 inhabitants since 2013 – and needs another health center. The laziness of the regional government led the City Council to offer to tender the works directly. The Community of Madrid contemplated it, but ended up backing down. A few weeks ago, the municipal corporation completed a 24-hour lockdown in protest, and announced new demonstrations. “We are not here for numbers,” replied the counselor for the branch, Enrique Ruiz Escudero. The Ministry of Health did not respond to a query about the deadlines it handles for the construction and inauguration of the infrastructures indicated in this information.