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Tens of thousands of Spanish health workers protest for future

People march during a protest in support of public health care in Madrid, Spain on Jan 15, 2023. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP)

MADRID – Tens of thousands of health workers protested in Madrid on Sunday over what they say is the destruction of the public health system by the conservative regional government.

Dressed in white coats and banging drums, many chanted: "Cutting public health is criminal."

The demonstration attracted about 30,000 protesters, a regional government spokesman said.

The Popular Party’s Isabel Ayuso, who is leading the Madrid regional government, said the protests and strikes are being orchestrated by left-wing parties in the run-up to municipal and regional elections this year to undermine the conservative regional government

The Madrid regional government, led by the Popular Party’s Isabel Ayuso, has come under fire in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, for poor staffing in hospitals and primary healthcare centers.

Protesters say the regional government is dismantling public health services and favoring private health providers.

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Dressed as the Grim Reaper and bearing a mock scythe, one protester held a sign reading, "I am Ayuso's plan for (the) emergency ward."

"We have about 40 or 50 patients per day and can give them about six minutes each. The problem is that they do not allow us to give proper care to patients," Ana Encinas, 62, a doctor who has worked in primary care in Madrid for 37 years, told Reuters.

A man shouts slogans during a protest in support of public health care in Madrid, Spain on Jan 15, 2023. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP)

Ayuso denies the accusation that her administration is dismantling public health services in favor of the private sector and says the protests and strikes are being orchestrated by left-wing parties in the run-up to municipal and regional elections this year to undermine the conservative regional government.

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In November, tens of thousands of people marched through central Madrid in support of health workers calling for better working conditions.