Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest against plans to privatize parts of their regional public health care system, with some questioning the motives behind the government's actions.
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Madrid -- Feb. 17
1. Wide of protesters marching with banners and placards
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4. Wide of protester with banner reading: (Spanish) "Let's join hands for the public health system"
5. Close up of placard reading: (Spanish) "I'm a patient, I'm a voter"
6. Various of protesters marching
7. Close of model skeleton with clothes and placards
8. Wide of protest
Thousands of people marched in Madrid on Sunday to protest against plans to privatise parts of their regional public health care system, with some questioning the motives behind the government's actions.
Demonstrators marched down main boulevards in the centre of the Spanish capital, carrying banners saying: "Public health care should be defended, not sold off" and "Let's join hands for the public health system".
The Madrid region has proposed selling the management of six of 20 large public hospitals in its jurisdiction and 10 percent of its 268 public health centres.
It says these reforms are needed to secure health services during Spain's economic crisis, but many are openly suspicious that the move is more a political-motivated ploy than an attempt to cut costs.
"This is pillaging of our public ground, public goods and public employees for private companies," said protestor Javier Tarabilla, aged 31.
Similar demonstrations were also taking place on Sunday in other Spanish cities including Barcelona.
Health care and education are administered by Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than by the central government.
Many regions are struggling financially as Spain's economy has shrunk due to a double-dip recession following the 2008 implosion of the once-prosperous real estate and construction sectors.
Some regions overspent during the boom years before the recession, but are now excluded from borrowing on the financial markets to repay their accumulated debts, forcing them to seek savings and even request rescue aid from the central government.