Cuts hit healthcare in Spain’s richest region
MADRID SPAIN’S crisis spending has cut a bit deeper with its richest region, Catalonia, suspending payments this past week to care homes and mental clinics because the money ran out. The regional government insisted it was a temporary cash-flow measure, but health workers complained it will hurt the most vulnerable members of society over the coming months. “These measures affect care centres for the elderly, the disabled, drug addicts and mental health patients,” said Toni Codina, director of a federation of welfare providers in Catalonia. “We don’t understand how the Catalan government, at a time of funding difficulties, can have concentrated these measures on one of the most vulnerable sectors in Catalan society.” The regional government insisted it was a temporary measure and all arrears would be paid by the end of the year. The latest measures “are part of a shock strategy” adopted because the regional government will not be able to pay the budgets of certain health clinics for two months, health spokeswoman Susagna Caseras told AFP. Francesco Homs, the spokesman for the ruling Catalan nationalist party CiU, told national radio: “It is a question of cash flow. I would not count it as one of the cuts.” Catalonia is on track to record a deficit double the regional limit — 1.3 percent of gross domestic product — set by the national government this year, despite an austerity budget that aims to save a billion euros by shaving 10 percent off health spending. It had already begun closing hospitals in July, but these efforts did not impress foreign investors and the ratings agency Fitch downgraded Catalonia’s credit rating on September 14 to A-minus from A.