AUSTERITY cuts could be leading to an increase in infectious diseases and significantly damaging Spain’s health.
Researchers from the UK’s leading health magazine BMJ believe that cuts of between 10 and 15% are effectively dismantling large parts of the country’s healthcare system.
This, they fear, could lead to a rise of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV, with the country struggling to deal with increased demand on already stretched resources.
Doctors and nurses, in particular, in Catalonia claimed that the ‘cuts are going to kill people’.
A total of 34 doctors and nurses reported feeling ‘shocked’, ‘numbed’ and ‘disillusioned’ about the cuts.
Dr Helena Legido-Quigley said: “We are seeing detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people.
“If no corrective measures are implemented, this could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis – as in Greece where healthcare services have had severe cuts.”
She added there was a risk of a rise in drug resistance and spread of disease.
The research noted that cuts to healthcare and social services of almost 14% at the national level and of 10% at the regional level in 2012 coincided with an increase in demand for care.
This was especially true for the elderly, the disabled and the mentally ill.
It also highlighted the fact that Spain already has one of the lowest public expenditures on healthcare relative to GDP in the European Union.
Further cuts would put vulnerable people at even greater risk, it insisted.
Despite the warnings, the government is going ahead with new cuts, including the exclusion of illegal immigrants from accessing free health services and increasing payments by patients for extra treatments such as drugs, prosthetics and some ambulance trips.
“For five years, policies to address the financial crisis have focussed almost entirely on economic indicators,” said Professor Martin McKee, co-author of the report.
“Our paper sheds light on the burden of human suffering that has followed from these policies.”