The Roundtable in Defense of Public Health in Madrid, known as White Tide, has returned to the streets of the capital this Saturday with its 96th edition in support of family doctors on indefinite strike and to denounce the “barbaric” model of reopening of the extra-hospital emergencies of the Government of Ayuso. After 26 days of strike and protests, and a confinement of the strike committee in the Ministry of Health that lasted 36 hours and ended when they were denied food and any kind of possibility to negotiate, the clash with the Government has reached its limit. .
Under the slogan “Without public health, there is no right to health”, thousands of people have marched at noon from the Atocha station to the Plaza de Cibeles. In front of the march, dozens of protesters hold a giant white sheet: “No to cuts and privatization. Yes to health and public services. Behind, hundreds of posters against the administration of the president. “With Ayuso, a thousand abuses”, “Ayuso kills us”, “The PP ruins Primary Care for us”, “Your health is sold” or “Ayuso out”, read the messages.
Like the posters, the slogans of the demonstration were also directed mostly against the President of the Community: “Ayuso and his brother rob us with two hands” and “Ayuso resigns, the people ask you” have been the most repeated phrases Along the way.
The residents have once again taken to the streets in defense of the Madrid health system only one month after the concentration that brought together hundreds of thousands of people in the city. “12 years ago I began to demonstrate in defense of public health. Since then I have never missed it”, explains Piedad Esteban, 71 years old. Over her coat, she is wearing a white T-shirt with a green heart, while in her hands is a banner with the face of the President of the regional government, which reads “Guilty Ayuso: 700 elderly people killed by Covid without medical care”. . “What cannot be allowed are the cuts that are being made. That people have to go to a hospital for bullshit to saturate the emergency room because there is no doctor in their center,” adds this Quintana neighbor.
Less than twenty meters from reaching Cibeles, the end of the route, the headland had to stop when it came across two national police vans parked in the middle of Paseo del Prado. “You have to go on the sidewalk,” the agents explained. The detour lasted a few seconds, as the demonstrators began to return to the center of the street or pass between the vans shouting “shame, shame.” “But what a joke is this. They do everything to stop us ”, a present commented indignantly.
A system on the brink of collapse
The Madrid health system has been wearing out for years. The professionals suffer physical and emotional exhaustion, intensified by the pandemic, due to the lack of personnel in the health centers, the work overload and the mistreatment received from the Community. This Friday, when they were still locked up in the Ministry of Health, Ayuso despised the members of the strike committee, removing them from “squatters” and assuring that “they are not doctors” but “union released”.
“I have come to see 90 children in one afternoon. To optimize time, she used three consultations: while a child changed in one, she visited another in the next room, ”explains a pediatrician at a Madrid health center. Since there are only two professionals in the entire center, she has had to always be on minimum services, although she would have liked to support the strike. “The treatment that the Community reserves for us is outrageous. There are days when I return home and I feel useless, that I have made a mistake in everything”.
Rita Maestre and Mónica García, the Más Madrid candidates for City Hall and the Community in 2023 respectively, have expressed their support for the professionals on strike. “The Popular Party not only does not listen to the demands of our toilets, it also insults them,” Maestre recalled. “It is a degrading and humiliating attitude towards our professionals that we applaud every day at eight in the afternoon during the pandemic,” García remarked. “We tell Mrs. Ayuso what we have been telling her for months. You don’t play with health. What the Government should do is sit down with the doctors in the same way that they do with the vulture funds and talk.
These negotiations, however, are at a standstill after the regional government’s refusal to expand the Primary Care budget. The measures proposed by the regional administration do not convince the health workers because they are a set of promises already broken and obligations from Brussels that do not solve the current problem of Primary Care that they consider to be “in danger of death”, reports Fátima Caballero.
Added to the strike by family doctors is the crisis of out-of-hospital emergencies, which opened in October without sufficient staff after closing during the pandemic. Also in this circumstance, the toilets began a strike, which was called off when the professionals reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health. The Community backed down and renounced opening all emergency points with a doctor, as President Ayuso originally promised, guaranteeing complete equipment in all the 39 former Rural Care Services (SAR) and in ten urban centers.
For the protesters this is not enough. “The happiness of seeing the emergencies of my open center has lasted a day. The next day there was no doctor, and we never had one again, ”says Jorge Ramírez, a resident of the south of the capital, who also regrets the long waits for consultations with his family doctor. “These weeks he is on strike. I understand it and I support it 100% ”, he affirms.
The march ended in Cibeles, when the demonstrators have placed the banner at the head of the town hall on the street and have read the manifesto of the call. “We consider a model that leaves us with hardly any doctors unfeasible, placing responsibilities that do not correspond to nurses,” the organizers have indicated. “Everything that concerns primary care is the reflection of a project designed to turn its back on professionals, who care nothing about them.”