Intended for healthcare professionals


Spain’s largest healthcare privatisation plan is halted

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 30 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1240
  1. Aser García Rada
  1. 1Madrid

The government of the autonomous community of Madrid has had to call off its plans to privatise six hospitals and 27 primary care centres,1 in the face of widespread protests and strikes in the region.2 The move would have affected 5000 health workers and 1.2 million citizens.

The regional president and leader of the conservative People’s Party in Madrid, Ignacio González, also announced at a press conference on 27 January that the head of the regional health department, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, had resigned because of his failure to push through the privatisation plan, the largest ever in Spain.

The plan’s withdrawal has been welcomed by healthcare workers, who had demonstrated more than a dozen times in the past 14 months and who went on a two week strike.

Additionally, 14 lawsuits denouncing irregularities in the process were presented to the regional courts by unions, opposition political parties, and professional associations.

Although three private companies, BUPA-Sanitas, Ribera Salud, and the Puerto Rican HIMA San Pablo, were about to take over the hospitals last September, some courts decreed that the privatisation process had to be suspended until a final decision could be taken.

In his provisional statement one judge considered that privatisation could “irreversibly” damage healthcare in the Madrid region.

The temporary suspension was ratified by the Madrid superior court on 9 January, which in practice would have meant that a final decision could have been delayed by at least one more year, which would have brought the decision close to the next regional elections, scheduled for May 2015, something González wanted to avoid.

The rejection by the superior court of an appeal presented by González and the private health companies involved has been decisive.

“We have shown that a reform not based on legal, professional, and scientific arguments can be stopped,” said Patricia Alonso from AFEM, the union leading the protests.

The People’s Party fears that this decision will encourage protests against austerity measures elsewhere in the country.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1240


  • Read Aser García Rada’s blogs on public healthcare privatisation and healthcare workers’ protests in Spain at


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