As part of the austerity measures introduced after the financial crisis, the Spanish government has been cutting healthcare spending since 2009. These cuts include expecting patients to fund the cost of their own medicine, limiting access to healthcare for migrants and reducing spending on healthcare staff, equipment and infrastructure.
There have been fears for some time that these cuts are resulting in inadequate levels of care for patients. Up until now, the severity of the impact has been unclear. However, a new report from Amnesty International has indicated that the effect the austerity measures are having on patient care is more serious than previously believed.
In a survey, members of the public and healthcare workers said that the measures had made healthcare less accessible and less affordable. They’ve also resulted in a lower quality of healthcare, longer waiting times, shorter appointments and poor quality equipment.
Healthcare workers have said that the new workload is unsustainable, and individuals have warned that those on low incomes with long term health problems have been hit hard by the cuts, in some cases having to ration their medication in order to save money.
Groups have warned that the austerity measures are threatening basic human rights obligations and the right to health. By failing to follow basic guidelines, like starting the measures before all other options had been exhausted and not conducting the right assessments, the Spanish government are risking the health of the most vulnerable in society.
Calls are being made for the EU to acknowledge their role in the falling quality of healthcare. Previous EU research has show that waiting times in Spain are “well above the level in other EU countries such as Italy and Portugal”. It also found that the difference in care levels between the highest and lowest earners in Spain was “significant”.
The report has recommended that the EU needs to acknowledge the role it plays in healthcare and carry out assessments accordingly. The EU implemented the austerity measures, and therefore needs to take leadership when it comes to taking human rights responsibilities and the standard of healthcare seriously.
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