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Family doctors, pediatricians in Madrid begin ‘historic’ indefinite strike

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MADRID, SPAIN: Health workers, holding banners, gather to demonstrate against health sector privatization, a staffing shortage, and difficult working conditions at Cibeles Square in Madrid, Spain on November 13, 2022. (Burak Akbulut - Anadolu Agency)
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Nov 22, 2022 - 12:31 AM

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Family doctors and pediatricians in the Madrid region began an indefinite strike on Monday, demanding a limit to the number of patients they see per day.

According to primary care providers, they typically have to attend to around 60 patients every day, which causes personal burnout, meaning the patients are not receiving proper care.

“We are on strike because the demand cannot be infinite. Because we need time to attend to our patients,” tweeted family care doctor Ana Gimenez.

The union behind the strike said primary care doctors should see a maximum of 31 patients daily for 10 minutes each. It argues that pediatricians should also limit their patient load to 21 children per day.

The situation has become a vicious circle: given the frantic working conditions in Madrid, doctors are leaving for other parts of Spain or other countries, leaving jobs unfilled and making work conditions even worse, the secretary-general of the AMYTS union Angela Hernandez said

She said that over just three years, the number of pediatricians in Madrid has dropped from 920 to 720.

“That gives you an idea of the level of medical attention we can offer today and the need for profound reforms,” she told Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 on Monday.

In total, around 5,000 doctors have been called on for the strike.

The union described the strike as “historic” on Monday as hundreds of doctors protested outside the agency that runs primary care in Madrid.

It also asked patients for understanding, as around half of the doctors would be off.

The strike came just eight days after hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Madrid streets to defend the region’s public health system.

For two weeks, doctors from Madrid’s 24-hour emergency clinics were also on strike over a lack of staff. But unions and the regional government reached an agreement on Thursday.

The conservative regional leader of Madrid, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, antagonized much of the local medical community as an outspoken critic of COVID-19 lockdowns during the depths of the pandemic. She has also been accused of favoring the system of private healthcare.

On Monday, Ayuso asked the striking doctors to go back to work.

“Don’t continue, flu cases are increasing and we cannot afford to saturate the hospitals,” she said. “There are times when a strike isn’t right. We believe that right now, we all need to work together to avoid an even worse problem.”

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