Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards have flooded the streets of Madrid for the largest protest yet against the regional government’s management of the capital city’s healthcare services.
More than 250,000 people rallied in the city centre, according to the central Spanish government. Organisers claimed the crowd was bigger by several hundred thousand.
Many protest participants carried homemade signs with messages in Spanish like “The right to health is a human right. Defend the health service.”
These groups have taken to the streets on a regular basis in recent months, and their movement is gathering strength.
Madrid’s regional chief, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, alleges the protests are motivated by the political interests of left-wing rivals ahead of May regional elections across most of Spain.
Healthcare workers claim that Ms Diaz Ayuso’s administration spends the least amount per capita on primary healthcare of any Spanish region even though it has the highest per capita income.
They say that for every two euros spent on healthcare in Madrid, one ends up in the private sector.
Critics of her administration say that produces long waits for patients and overworked doctors and nurses.
Spain has a hybrid healthcare system, but the public sector is larger than the private one and is considered a basic pillar of the state. It is run by Spain’s regions.