SOME 200,000 people took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest against the regional government’s management of the health system and to demand a “public, universal and high-quality” service. But according to one of the targets of the protestors’ ire, regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the whole demonstration was the result of the left’s attempt to “burn down” the capital in a bid to get into power. 

The protest on Sunday – which organisers claim attracted 670,000 people, compared to the more conservative estimate of the central government’s delegation in Madrid – attracted not just staff from the healthcare system, opposition parties and unions, but also patients and their families. 

It marked the first major demonstration against Ayuso, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and also attracted celebrities such as Oscar-winning movie director Pedro Almodóvar.

Protestors, who carried banners calling for Ayuso to quit as well as an actual effigy of the politician, complained that the system lacks proper investment and funding and complained that the recent reopening of non-hospital emergency rooms after their closure during the coronavirus pandemic has been chaotic. 

A tweet from the leader of the leftist Más Madrid party, Mónica García, showing the crowds at Sunday’s demonstration.

There have also been widespread complaints from within the system that doctors will be attending to patients via video calls. 

While Ayuso kept silent on Sunday, refraining from even tweeting about the demonstration, on Monday she slammed the political opposition during a speech in the capital.

“The left, instead of seeking solutions via an agreement and negotiation, instead of calling for a national deal to solve the problem of the doctors shortage that is affecting all of Spain, which is the real issue, has opted instead to politicise the difficulties,” she claimed at the event in the Club Siglo XXI, in comments reported by Spanish daily El País.

“This is the destabilising strategy of an irresponsible left that is desperately trying to cling on to power or to reach it, as is the case in Madrid, via confusion, agitation and dirty tricks,” she added. 

Doctors at non-hospital emergency rooms began an indefinite strike last week over their conditions, after they reopened with half of the staff that manned them compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What’s more, staff from GP’s surgeries and paediatric doctors have also signed up to the industrial action, with plans for an indefinite stoppage from November 21 onward. 

A recent report from the Madrid College of Physicians Mental Health Observatory (Icomem) showed that 92% of staff are suffering or have suffered emotional burnout, while 86% are suffering so-called “depersonalisation syndrome”, which is when health professionals feel they have less empathy for their colleagues and patients.

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