U-turn in Madrid over hospital privatisation

The PP regional government in Madrid on Monday adroitly and successfully performed that most popular of political manoeuvres, the U-turn, and cancelled its planned outsourcing (formerly privatisation) of management and services at six local hospitals.

The region’s health chief, Javier Fernández Lasquetty, who had been pushing the privatization efforts announced he was stepping down from his post. Lasquetty, who was health commissioner under the previous PP Madrid government of Esperanza Aguirre, will remain as a deputy in the regional parliament.

The developments came just hours after the Madrid regional High Court, which has been studying a lawsuit, denied the regional government’s petition to lift a cautionary injunction it issued last September against the efforts.

In July 2013, the regional government awarded the running of six hospitals (Vallecas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Parla, Coslada, Arganda del Rey and Aranjuez) to three private healthcare management groups: Puerto Rico’s Hima-San Pablo and Spanish firms Bupa Sanitas and Ribera Salud.

The government gave as its reason for the measure the desire to cut the costs in Madrid’s inflated budget by as much as 710 million euros annually. Critics of the proposal, however,argued that the private operators could then begin charging for certain services in the future as well as cutting health sector jobs. This, they said, would lead to inadequate health care.

The new private management schemes were due to take effect in September, but the Madrid regional High Court (TSJM) froze the region’s plans to sell off the hospitals for cautionary reasons after it upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court.

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