The Madrid regional government made provisions in its budget for this year for the possible blocking of its plans to privatize six hospitals.
The Madrid regional High Court (TSJM) last Wednesday froze the region’s plans to sell off the hospitals for cautionary reasons, confirming an earlier ruling by a lower Madrid court.
The TSJM wants more time to consider the matter, which it noted would leave healthcare in the hands of the private sector for 1.2 million people in the region and affect the careers of 5,000 healthcare workers in an area in which tens of millions of euros are also involved. The court also discovered irregularities in the bidding process for the hospitals.
The court could take up to 18 months to make its final decision, a delay that sources close to private companies already awarded the management of hospitals say leaves the privatization process effectively dead.
However, despite the fact that the region’s health commissioner, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, had expressed his “total surprise” at the lower court’s initial freeze of the privatization process, the 2013 regional budget sets aside 53 million euros to cover the “unexpected costs” of the public hospitals that are up for sale.
Neither Lasquetty nor regional premier Ignacio González of the conservative Popular Party have publicly acknowledged that the region had an alternative plan in the event that the privatization process was blocked. The regional economic department has declined to discuss the possible budgetary fallout from the healthcare reform.
The 53-million-euro item set aside for the public hospitals was included in the budget for this year presented by the regional government at the same time as it also unveiled its plans to sell off the six hospitals in question. The total budget allotted for the six centers for this year was 328 million euros, 128 million less than a year earlier.
However, of this amount there was a special assignment of 52.9 million euros for “healthcare assistance and social services using outside resources.” This amount was earmarked to pay the private companies for the three months from October 1, when the regional government expected they would already hold the management strings of the six hospitals earmarked for privatization.
The reserve fund of 53 million euros will provide additional funding for the hospitals in question without distorting the overall budget
The TSJM’s ruling came in response to a suit filed by the Afem doctor’s association. There have also been widespread protests against the privatization process.