News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response
At the brink of a medical apartheid, after 25 years in Spain
Por DIAGONAL English

By Diego Sanz Paratcha / Translated by Sarah Pilar Lacobucci y Esther Ortiz Vázquez

On April 20th the Spanish Government, with the highest number of seats in the Parliament, passed a law that meant the end of the universal medical assistance in Spain whose National Public Health System was attending freely everybody without regarding its legal situation in the country. Such law stipulated that from September 1st onwards illegal immigrants must be out of the public hedge, seemingly to save € 1,500 million. Previously, there was a Government’s announcement of a budget cut of €10 billion both in health and education to meet the goals on controlling deficit set up in the Eurogroup´s Tax Treaty. A few months later, in the middle of August, the Government made another €5 billion cut more in these areas public as part of a plan proposed to the European Union on Friday August 3rd.

The enforcement of the Royal Decree will leave tens of thousands of people who lack Spanish working papers without health care. This image shows a gathering of domestic workers demanding naturalization. / Photo: Olmo Calvo.
N.O., a resident of the Madrid neighborhood Moratalaz that participates in the community association Apoyo, has just barely been able to maintain her free diabetes treatments. With less than four weeks remaining until all people with irregular legal status lose their free health care, N.O. finally has an appointment to renew her residency card this very week, and thus her access to insulin.

According to what the association Apoyo reported last week, the Spanish administration did not accept the paperwork for the request of a renewal of her residency permit after, in 2011, N.O. made a mistake that cost her papers after 25 legal years of residency in the Spanish state: she filled out the wrong form for the request of her first permanent residency card.

The Royal Decree act, approved on the 20th of April by Mariano Rajoy’s administration, establishes that as of the 1st of September health care coverage will no longer be given to people in Spain who do not have residency permits or work permits given by the state. According to a disclosure given today by the newspaper El País, the ministry ordinance that developed this Royal Decree will in the end approve medical care for those immigrants in an irregular situation who pay €710 (1864.80 for those over 65 years old) by means of the approval of an agreement with their autonomous administration.

Apoyo decided not to wait until the ministry order was published nor until the deadline set by the Royal Decree was met, so they began a campaign to obtain the insulin that would temporarily resolve N.O.’s problem. Actions against the RD 16/2012 are also being taken by the institutional sphere (Asturias, the Basque Country and Andalucía have announced that they will disobey its orders) and even professionals: at least 823 doctors have pledged themselves as conscientious objectors to the RD in the register of the Sociedad Española de Medicina de Familia y Comunitario (the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine, or semFyc). The citizen campaign Yo Sí Sanidad Universal, which will present itself in September, has also encouraged initiatives of civil disobedience and mutual support, which can now be accessed on their webpage.

People Party acknowledges that expelling immigrants is the real goal of this measure

The People Party’s deputy spokesperson at the Parliament, Rafael Hernando, has explained during the Tuesday´s evening that the aim of the so-called covenants to give medical assistance to illegal migrants on paying €710 in advance is to prevent Spain of being “the paradise of illegal migration”.

According to El País newspaper, this statement clashes with the goal of the measure proclaimed previously that will be included in a ministry act developed within the Royal Decree 16/2012. This latest, under the title of “Urgent measures to guarantee the National Health System´s sustainability”, was expected for the Government to save €1,500 million due to the limitations to access to public health.

Medical associations as well as immigrant collectives ​have reported the risk for the public health that the measure could mean insomuch as might lead to the emergency department collapse and help to the widespread of contagious diseases. Thus this they consider that in the medium term saving by using these restrictions is not real.

During a press conference held at the People Party’s headquarter Hernando has cleared up any possible doubt since in his opinion “what illegal immigrants have to do is come back to their countries”. The deputy spokesperson wanted to make quite clear that “no person in this country, either an illegal or a legal migrant, is going to be deprived of emergency assistance”. The People Party’s representative also remarked that he agrees on “some of the reflections made by the prior Government” on immigration, possibly referring to the latest Zapatero’s Government Immigration State Secretary, Ana Terrón, about the increasing “exceptionality” of those mechanisms for migrants without legal status in Spain legalization.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on August 7th, 2012]





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