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A Healthy Reaction

A Healthy Reaction

Several European countries saw strikes of medical staff in 2012. Governments throughout Europe are currently faced with some difficult decisions to make, and many people in the medical profession are dissatisfied, to say the least.

In July, thousands of doctors and nurses went on strike in Portugal to protest against cuts in the health budget, causing operations and appointments to be cancelled. The government’s proposals, which include higher prescription charges, were met with strong opposition. “The number of people who can’t pay for healthcare is rising” said a spokesman for a patients’ rights group in Lisbon. Meanwhile, in the UK, doctors took industrial action in a dispute over pay and pension reforms. Across the country, 2,703 operations were postponed and more than 18,000 appointments were rescheduled. A similar thing occurred in France in November, when a union called for an end to a strike over government restrictions on private fees because it was causing problems for patients. The number of private practitioners there is gradually shrinking, though, as more and more graduates take on salaried positions in hospitals.

Prior to strikes in Western Europe, around 2000 healthcare workers in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina walked out demanding higher salaries. More recently, a large number of medical staff in the Spanish capital protested against what they see as an aggressive privatisation of the public health system. The Spanish government plan to privatise six hospitals and forty healthcare centres in Madrid. “You can’t offer the same services with less money”, said one doctor; “the private companies invest to earn money and the health system loses out.” Some critics say that the jobs of 8000 people are at stake but the government insist that they can be rehired by new companies.

All this adds up to one worrying trend that is, in all probability, set to continue into 2013, as governments push forward with reforms. But while governments consider reforming healthcare services, many people say that reforms in banking practices should also be on the agenda.