I recently had the misfortune to be sick during my holiday in Spain. It seemed like a standard gastro infection, but when the symptoms made no sign of clearing after a visit to a doctor and several days of medication, I ended up going to the emergency department of the Hospital del Henares in Coslada, in the suburbs of Madrid.
I was seen by triage nurses very quickly and had blood samples and x-rays taken within about an hour of arrival. When the doctors examined me they decided to keep me overnight for observation. They eventually kept me a second night and released me on Friday afternoon. No need for gory details.
The hospital is bright, clean and modern. Built in 2007, it has its own metro station on the specially-extended eastern portion of Line 7. The staff are all very pleasant and efficient and some made a special effort to speak English with me as my medical vocabulary is not very good in Spanish. And they provide a high quality – free! – wifi service.
As I was leaving I asked "where do I pay?" I was told there was no payment required; this is a public hospital, not a profit-making business.
Long may it last! But alas it won't. As in many countries, the very notion of public service is being questioned. The public health system in Spain is going to be privatised so that some already rich companies can make a profit out of sick people.
It won't change without a fight, however. All over the hospital there are hand-made signs saying things like "Health is a right"; "Defend our public hospital, don't sell it"; "Profit-making health companies, keep out!" I wish them the best in the struggle.
Public health systems are for curing people, not for making a profit. It should stay that way.