The Catalan healthcare system cuts 900 million euro

The Catalan Health Minister, Boi Ruiz, announced today that waiting lists will increase - with the exception of “life or death” situations. Hospitals will see their budget in health treatments and explorations decrease by 2%. In addition, the construction of new hospitals and health centres will also be put on stand by.

CNA / Lluís Vilaró

March 2, 2011 11:26 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Cuts have been introduced to the public expenditure of the Catalan healthcare system. Today, the Catalan Minister for Health, Boi Ruiz, met with a hundred directors and presidents of Catalan hospitals to announce the measures to cut the budget of the Catalan healthcare system. The Catalan Government is the public administration in charge to provide public healthcare to Catalan citizens and is responsible for all the primary health centres and hospitals, including the main university hospitals. Ruiz announced a budget reduction of 900 million euros. For instance, Catalan hospitals will see their budget for health actions (treatments and explorations) decrease by 2%. Ruiz alerted that this measure would very likely increase waiting lists. The only exception will be situations of “life or death”. “People who can wait, will have to wait even more”, alerted Ruiz. In addition, the construction of new health centres, such as the hospital of Moncada i Reixac, in Barcelona Metropolitan Area, will be put on stand by, waiting for better times. Another measure will be reducing hospital management and administration staff. In total, healthcare expenditure will be cut by 10% in Catalonia, in order to face the public deficit reduction. The main opposition party, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), has warned about the risk of cutting basic services. Others parties, such as the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), emphasise that if Catalonia was not paying so much money to other territories in Spain, the Catalan Government would not have to cut healthcare expenditure. ERC also said that autonomous communities receiving money from Catalonia are not obliged to cut basic services and are able to pay their healthcare systems.

Bad news for Catalan citizens -the Catalan public healthcare system will have to reduce its budget in order to face the Catalan Government’s reduction of its deficit. The direct consequence, as the Catalan Health Minsiter Boi Ruiz acknowledged, is that citizens will get fewer services. The expenditure in treatments and explorations will be cut by 2%. New drugs will not be accepted to pharmaceuticals if they do not come with an associated budget. In addition, non-urgent surgery will be postponed. Waiting lists of surgery, but also of treatments and explorations will increase. The Minister said the only exception would be for “life and death” situations, other situations such as knee orthopedics or heart control explorations will have to wait more time.

Ruiz announced the measure in front of a hundred directors and presidents of hospitals and health centres. One of the measures will be cutting management and administration staff. Concretely, hospital management staff will be reduced by 10%. The Clinic Hospital of Barcelona, which is a reference centre at European-level, already fired 2 directors last week. In addition, Ruiz emphasised that the construction of new centres is paralysed for the entire 2011 and probably the entire 2012. An example of this measure is the new hospital in Moncada i Reixac (North of Barcelona). The construction of this secondary hospital will be delayed, at least until the end of 2012. Patients will still have to travel to other towns and travel some 20 kilometres to be treated. In fact, Ruiz talked about the need to concentrate services as well. The secondary hospitals may stop providing some services and citizens will have to go to other centres to be treated, sometimes making quite a journey.

The opposition complains

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) is on guard regarding the health budget cut. The PSC warned of the danger of cutting basic services and stated that they will not support the Catalan Government if there is not an agreement with the health professionals. They see a “blur road map” and they fear medical “staff reductions”. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) emphasised that Catalonia is obliged to cut healthcare services while other autonomous communities, which receive money from Catalonia, do not have to reduce their health services. ERC stressed that Catalan citizens suffer from this situation and it is illogical that regions giving money to others need to reduce basic services while those receiving money do not have to do it.