Austerity means disaster for Spanish healthcare
As the austerity situation is hitting Spain for real, the pain is being felt beyond the falling IBEX and rising yields. Similar effects as we have seen in Greece are now popping up in Spain, latest being the healthcare sector. With unemployment skyrocketing, the politicians delivering empty promises, Argentina stealing Spanish properties, and healthcare heading for a collapse, expect nothing less than the protest we saw in Greece. From El Pais.
Spain’s hospitals are reportedly in debt to the pharmaceutical companies that supply them with drugs and medical devices to the tune of 12 billion euros. Last week Sagrario Pérez Castellanos, the director general of Basic Services and Pharmacy at the Health Ministry, told reporters that she couldn’t confirm the figure, saying that the government didn’t have data for hospitals’ full costs because regional governments, who are responsible for budgeting their health services, can’t – or won’t – provide accurate figures.
Farmaindustria, the body that represents Spain’s pharmaceutical companies, has a clearer picture of the problem: it says that of the 12 billion euros, “6.4 billion covers medicines, and the rest covers items such as disposable gloves, bandages, syringes, etc.” It adds that regional health authorities take between 18 and 26 months to pay their suppliers.
In a bid to reduce its drugs bill, the Health Ministry says that it has already cut subsidies to patients on prescriptions by 11 billion euros a year. But Farmaindustria says that more needs to be done, and paints a stark picture of the challenges facing Spain’s national health service. “The current model cannot cover everything. If we want to avoid a collapse, then the budget needs to be increased; if not, then we’ll have to establish new criteria for services and who receives them, and on what basis,” declares Farmaindustria president Humberto Arnés.
For the moment, the multinational pharmaceutical companies that keep Spain’s health services running have not cut supplies, as they have in Greece and Portugal. But the danger is there. In the meantime, the government has announced a 35-billion-euro bailout fund for the regions to keep suppliers paid.
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