Austerity Spain

Barcelona public hospital charging for private rooms

Catalan regional government says its hands are tied over clinic’s money-spinning move

Draconian austerity measures imposed on the Catalan health sector by the regional government of Artur Mas — which reduced the budget per patient by 11.3 percent last year — have led some public hospitals to find new ways to generate income: including selling private rooms to patients and charging visitors for the use of reclining chairs during their vigils.

The prestigious Clínic Hospital in Barcelona, which has treated King Juan Carlos, justifies the measure as being "voluntary," and subject to there being "spare beds available." The hospital's directors said that most of these rooms are used for maternity but labor unions have attacked the move as "discriminatory," and a case of providing services only "for those that can afford them."

Catalonia's singular health system allows hospitals to operate with considerable autonomy; only eight of the 62 public centers in the region are directly controlled by the Generalitat. "We can't get involved if they charge for hotel services," said a spokesman.

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