Experts criticize Mónica García for low health investment

The lack of medical coverage During the summer it is a recurring problem in Spain. However, this year specifically, the situation is expected to be even more serious. The Covid-19 pandemic produced a Delay in the incorporation of resident physicians (MIR). So, instead of starting in May, they did it in September. This has created an additional deficit in the availability of health professionals at a critical time. This delay, combined with the need to cover the vacations of regular medical staffhas exacerbated the shortage of doctors in many areas, especially in rural areas and primary care centers.

Given this situation, the Popular Party has repeatedly asked the Executive to study that fourth-year MIRs can see patients in Primary Care centres during this summer even though they end in September. The proposal was disapproved by the Minister of Health, Mónica García, since, as she indicated, the Ministry’s duty was to guarantee the training of these professionals.

This non-legal proposal was also debated on Tuesday in the Congress of Deputies and caused some groups in Congress, mainly the left bloc, to reproach the popular party for having used healthcare as a political weapon. However, last Thursday, June 27, the initiative went ahead with the majority of votes in the Upper House.

In this way, an attempt has been made to find a solution to this summer’s problem. However, this is not a one-time issue. For years now, Our health system is facing a huge problem which inevitably impacts the efficiency and quality of care. The situation affects Primary Care (PC) much more noticeably. Doctors, pediatricians and other health professionals working in health centers bear the brunt of the crisis. excessive workloads due to high patient volume and shortage of colleagues; lack of time to dedicate to the patient due, in part, to facing a large number of administrative tasks; unattractive wages and other working conditions; among others.

“We are spectators of the continuous lack of professionals in certain sectors of family and community medicine,” laments Víctor Pedrera, general secretary of the State Confederation of Medical Unions (CESM).

Doctor Vicente Matas, from the SIMEG Vicente Matas Studies Center Foundation, has the same opinion. «This year we have found the surprise that Almost 250 Family Medicine positions have been left unfilled. And this is because the PA is in very bad condition, the workloads are unbearable. And it all happens because there have been a lot of cuts, so now we have an insufficient budget.

For his part, Tomás Cobo, president of the General Council of Official Medical Colleges, emphasizes that the problem of the lack of doctors in AP “has been known for 30 years.” «It is a chronic problem that, as time has passed, has become more complicated. Furthermore, this situation is very common, unfortunately, throughout Europe,” he denounces. The president of the highest representative body of doctors proposes take effective and harmonized measures between the Government and the Autonomous Communities. “It is of no use if a counselor has the idea of ​​paying more in his region to take doctors from another,” he says.

Powers of the Ministry of Health

Although, in Spain, Health responsibilities are decentralized and are managed mainly by the autonomous communities, the Central Government also plays an important role in the coordination and regulation of the system. In fact, according to experts, The Ministry of Health has the power to address these problems through a series of strategic and well-coordinated measures. Since November 2023, this responsibility falls on Monica GarciaThe Minister of Health has called 9 meetings of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS).

«The work of this minister, at this time and within the framework of powers she has, has been aimed at trying to strengthen the co-governance that must exist with the CCAA. And she has addressed two worrying issues: primary care and summer coverage to try to take measures that are linear. However, implementation is lacking. That is to say, there is no crisis of ideas, there are tons of literature, but the themes must be developed,” says Tomás Cobo.

In the opinion of Vicente Matas, despite the fact that a monographic CISNS was held on the problem of the lack of doctors in summer, The Ministry identified the problem too late: “We have known about it since the summer of 2020 and not only has nothing been done in all this time, but those who proposed solutions have also been put in the way,” he highlights. And he remembers that health is a fundamental issue for the population. «We must stop focusing on political colors and using Health to attack the opposite, and row all together at the interterritorial level to solve these issues. Matas also demands real solutions: “It’s time to move from words to actions. Nothing has been put on the table yet.”

The lack of implementation of solutions by the Ministry of Health is also criticized by CESM. «The only thing we have had so far have been declarations of intent with little support. AND What we are asking for are concrete solutions, with details, numbers, and deadlines.», points out Víctor Pedrera.

The CESM spokesperson points out that the Ministry of Health has the authority to take several measures aimed at improving the health situation. «The first of them is to plan postgraduate training. In Spain there is no shortage of medical schools, what is missing are doctors with specialization willing to work in the public system. Measures must also be established to retain professionals and this would be achieved with the adaptation of the framework statute that contemplates labor improvements; However, the Ministry has not wanted to draw up a specific Statute, which for me is a mistake because the medical profession has specifications of such depth as to justify making it to us,” he points out.

Measures to solve the problem

According to experts, some solutions involve increase the budget allocation, optimize the administrative tasks or guarantee a equitable distribution of resources.

«Primary Care needs more budget, without cutting in other sectors, but a significant increase is necessary to finance more staff, both doctors and technical-administrative and support staff in the consultation to ensure that doctors have more time to care. patients’ medical problems. It is also necessary to improve remuneration conditions, working conditions, offer long-term contracts to new specialists, incentives in isolated centers with difficult coverage and OPES convened in June, resolved in months and not years, so that the majority of “The new specialists stay in Spain and in Primary Care,” says Vicente Matas. And he specifies: “The solutions are to increase the budget, until it reaches 25% of the public health budget, although obviously, it will have to be done over several years, with a first objective of 20%.”

From 2009 to 2022, Primary Care has reduced its participation in public health investment by one point, going from 15.3% to 14.3%. In these years, the increase in investment has been 2,392 million (22.2%), while the increase in the SNS has been 21,493 million (30.5%), the increase in Hospital Services has been 16,594 million (42.3%). This negative evolution comes from afar, since from 1980 to 2022, Primary Care has gone from 20.9% to a scant 14.3%. Meanwhile, hospital services have advanced 5.8 points, from 54.9% to 60.7%.

Another of the proposed solutions involves a significant increase to finance more staff, both doctors and technical-administrative and support staff in the consultation. “We must ensure that doctors have more time to attend to patients’ medical problems,” says Vicente Matas. It is also necessary to improve remuneration conditions, working conditions, offer long-term contracts to new specialists, incentives in isolated centers with difficult coverage and OPES convened in June, resolved in months and not years, so that the majority of the new specialists stay in Spain and in Primary Care.

Historical cuts

The public health investment in Spain that existed in 2009, before the crisis and the corresponding cuts, was a total of 70,579 million euros in the SNS, of which a scant 15.3% was dedicated to Primary Care ( 10,775 million) and despite this insufficient and unfair budget, the cuts between 2009 and 2013 were much more important in Primary (1,651 million, 15.3%) than in the SNS (12.6%) and much more than in Hospital Services (1,850 million, 4.7%). In 2013, only 14.8% of public health investment was invested, compared to 15.3% in 2009.

When the economic recovery arrives, Primary, which suffered greater cuts than the average for the SNS and Hospital Services, increases investment between 2013 and 2022, less than the SNS, 44.3% Primary compared to 49.2% for the SNS and less than Hospital Services, which increased by 49.3%. Primary care goes from 14.8% of public health investment in 2013 to a scant 14.3% in 2022.