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Health no money can buy: Spaniards march to defend medical treatment rights (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Published time: December 09, 2012 20:41
Edited time: December 10, 2012 00:41

Demonstrators protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)

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Spaniards are refusing to jeopardize their healthcare for the sake of the budget, with thousands of medical workers marching through Madrid protesting cuts to health care and plans to sell off public hospitals.

­The protesters, dressed in white and blue scrubs, chanted "Health is not for sale" and "Health 100 per cent public, no to privatizations."

Police estimated that more than 5,000 people attended the demonstration in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol, while organizers put the number of protesters at 25,000.

Some protesters carried placards with anti-austerity messages and criticism of the plan to hand hospitals and clinics over to corporate administration. 

Local authorities put forward a plan in October to place six hospitals and 27 clinics of the 270 in the region under private management.

The plan also suggests charging patients a prescription fee of €1.

"What their plans really mean is a total change of our health care model and a dismantling of the system used," Fatima Branas, a spokeswoman for the organizers, was quoted by AP as saying.

The latest protest follows a call by professional associations on the region's 75,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers last week to stage protests and go on strike if necessary.

The march, called a "white tide" by its organizers, was Spain's third large-scale protest over health care issues this year.

Spanish health care and education are currently managed by 17 the semi-autonomous regions, rather than the central government. Thus, each sets its own budgets and spending plans. The Madrid region is governed by the Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The Prime Minister’s government has slashed national health spending by €7 billion ($9.1 billion) a year. Spain's leadership hopes the move will save €102 billion by 2014, as the government continues cutting public services in order to cover its massive bailouts of failing financial companies.

Demonstrators take part in a protest against the local government′s plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012.  The banner on the left reads: "With the Popular Party healthcare, I′ll go to heaven". (Reuters/Susana Vera)
Demonstrators take part in a protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. The banner on the left reads: "With the Popular Party healthcare, I'll go to heaven". (Reuters/Susana Vera)
A demonstrator carries a cross that reads "R.I.P., Public health care" during a protest against the local government′s plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
A demonstrator carries a cross that reads "R.I.P., Public health care" during a protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the local government′s plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
A demonstrator carries a sign on his head that reads "Public health, free and of quality" during a protest against the local government′s plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. The mask on his mouth reads "They want to shut us off" (Reuters/Susana Vera)
A demonstrator carries a sign on his head that reads "Public health, free and of quality" during a protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. The mask on his mouth reads "They want to shut us off" (Reuters/Susana Vera)
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the local government′s plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the local government's plans to cut spending on public health care in Madrid December 9, 2012. (Reuters/Susana Vera)
A demonstrator holds a placard depecting Spain′s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and reading "The child of the cuts" during a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)
A demonstrator holds a placard depecting Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and reading "The child of the cuts" during a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)
Medical workers take part in a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)
Medical workers take part in a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)
Protesters take part in a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)
Protesters take part in a demonstration against plans to cut medical spending and privatise hospital services, in Madrid onDecember 09, 2012. (AFP Photo/Pedro Armestre)

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