Spanish doctors to defy ban on immigrant care
MADRID – Some Spanish doctors and regions say they will defy a ban on free healthcare for an estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants, imposed by the central government as part of spending cuts to avoid an international bailout.
Five of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions – including Catalonia and Andalucia which provide more than a third of national economic output and are not governed by the central government’s ruling People’s Party (PP) – said they would continue to treat immigrants who have no papers.
The ruling conservatives plan to end free treatment from the beginning of September as part of their austerity drive, aimed at cutting one of the euro zone’s largest budget deficits and convincing nervous investors they can control Spain’s finances.
Critics say the number of immigrants without papers is estimated at only about 150,000, so barring them from medical treatment would save very little and was pandering to prejudice.
“The new law is not ethical, it’s not cost efficient, and it makes no sense for the public health system. It’s based on myths that immigrants are abusing the system that are not true,” said Alvaro Gonzalez, a specialist at a hospital in the northern region of Asturias who has led opposition to the measure.
The near six million documented immigrants in Spain, most of them legal residents, account for only 5 per cent of the country’s healthcare costs, according to a study by La Caixa bank published last year. Some doctors in PP-ruled regions also reject a ban which they say is at odds with Spain’s universal healthcare service and could end up costing the state more if immigrants go to hospital emergency rooms instead of seeing a regular doctor. – (Reuters)