New Madrid health chief offers staff olive branch after outsourcing U-turn

Company says it respects regional government's decision to cancel hospital privatization plan Medical workers celebrate scheme's demise

One day after the Madrid government canceled its ambitious plans to outsource management and some services at six public hospitals, the region's new health chief extended an olive branch to healthcare professionals on Tuesday in an effort to warm up the frosty relations the privatization proposal has led to.

Health commissioner Francisco Javier Rodríguez said his first priority was to repair the damage the more than one-year conflict has caused with regard to hospital workers. "I would peel my skin off for them. [...] Without them, the system would break down," he said.

Rodríguez took over as regional health chief after Javier Fernández-Lasquetty resigned on Monday following the announcement by Madrid's Popular Party (PP) premier, Ignacio González, that his government was canceling the controversial outsourcing plan that had been the subject of at least six lawsuits. Lasquetty had been the architect of the plan.

Without the hospital workers, the system would break down"

Three private healthcare management groups — Puerto Rico's HIMA-San Pablo and Spanish firms Bupa Sanitas and Ribera Salud — were set to take over the six hospitals in Vallecas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Parla, Coslada, Arganda del Rey and Aranjuez last September until the regional High Court issued a temporary injunction. On Monday, the same court denied the Madrid government's last-ditch petition to lift the suspension.

A spokesman for Ribera Salud on Tuesday said it respected the Madrid government's decision. The other two health companies had not issued a public statement by press time.

Meanwhile, healthcare unions who had mobilized their members to protest the outsourcing plan were happy about the cancelation but said they would remain cautious in case Madrid officials tried to make cuts in health spending. Meanwhile, the court cases will continue until the proposal is officially canceled and the private companies withdraw from the deal, legal sources said.

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