DEMPEUS al British Medical Journal

Published 17 February 2009, doi:10.1136/bmj.b645
Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b645

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New coalition to defend public health services launched in Catalonia

Miguel Jara

1 Madrid

A coalition of health professionals, academics, trade unionists, and others is being launched next week (February 20) in Barcelona to defend the right of citizens in the autonomous region of Catalonia to have access to public health services.

Opposition to the present Catalan Health Department, run by Marina Geli of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC-PSOE), has been mounting in recent years because increasing privatisation has led to inequalities in healthcare provision.

The 1990 Catalan Health Law set up a «mixed» public-private model for hospital services that made certain services more accessible to people who can pay, even though the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut), which is attached to the Catalan Health Department, guarantees health services for all.

The new coalition movement, called «Dempeus» (which means «On our feet»), brings together members of the Catalan cultural world, health professionals, economists, trade unionists, neighbourhood associations, and academics from the University of Barcelona, among others.

«Since the creation of the autonomous Catalan government 23 years ago, it doesn’t matter whether it has been run by conservatives or progressives, the same model has been used: one of privatisation of health resources, outsourcing, fake economic bankruptcies, commercial management models, support of the private healthcare sector with public funds, and taking orders from the private insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry.

«The public system has been degraded,» says Angels Martínez, a professor of political economics at the University of Barcelona and one of the coordinators of the Dempeus coalition.

Currently more than half of the health budget of the Catalan government goes to private or mixed management organisations.

«In Catalonia there are paradoxes like the one we see at the public Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. A patient can have an appointment to see a doctor in one of the outpatient clinics with a waiting list of several months; the same patient can see a doctor in the same outpatient service in the afternoon, which is then called Barnaclinic, with no waiting list, for {euro}185 [£166; $238],» says Professor Martínez.

«In an economic crisis like the one we are living in right now, healthcare costs are cut back with the same old excuses that there is not enough money and that ‘limits’ have to be set on costs.

«Citizens are blamed for public healthcare costs with the aim of breaking down any opposition that might exist to a co-payment system for public health services and the population is pushed towards private health insurance companies,» said Antoni Barbarà, a doctor who is active in Dempeus and who works in the health sector of the Barcelona city government.

Dempeus favours civil and political action towards a social movement and aims to promote debate on the provision of health services.

The primary objective of the coalition is the defence of a public National Health System that is «scientifically rigorous and of public interest, with no ‘mixed’ or ‘privatising’ formula which favours the private market.»

The group also wants to encourage associations and mutual support groups to take part in Dempeus.

Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b645

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  1. ¡Qué bien salir en el BMJ!

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