Workers outside the Costa del Sol hospital on Monday. Josele-Lanza
On Monday workers at the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella began a strike which in the end caused little impact
The first "indefinite" strike in a public hospital in Malaga province began last Monday and was called off two days later.
At a meeting early on Wednesday Costa del Sol Hospital workers agreed to bring the strike to an end due to the little impact the action had had on the running of the hospital. They have not given up, though, and voted to replace the indefinite strike with partial stoppages which they believe will have greater repercussions.
Union representatives said that the lack of effect of this week's action was due to the minimum services established and the management's decision to reschedule services in the Ophthalmology, Gynaecology and Dermatology Departments which meant that only 200 of the hospital's 1,500-strong workforce had the opportunity to join the protest.
The impact of the planned partial stoppages would be greater, however, as the minimum services the management can impose are similar to staffing numbers on a public holiday, when only the accident and emergency department, the intensive care unit and hospitalisation wards were in operation. The first of these stops will take place on Tuesday August 7th between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Details were due to be finalised at meetings on Thursday.
Also on Wednesday unions proposed forcing negotiations with the public agency that manages the CHARE hospitals in Benalmádena and Mijas concerning the application of the health cuts. They claim that these will affect workers' salaries at the two specialist centres by as much as 20 per cent more than the Andalusian Health Service workers due to the nature of their contracts.
Earlier this week there had been some discrepancies between unions and the Junta de Andalucía regarding the extent to which the strike action was being supported by workers. The difference of opinion, according to workers' representative Juan José Sánchez, stemmed from the fact that the Junta de Andalucía counted workers obliged to be in their departments because of minimum staffing rules as among those against the action when really they had no choice.
At the Costa del Sol no operations had been scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, so while only the emergency theatre was operating, the lack of activity in the others affected no one.
Staff at the Mijas and Benalmádena centres agreed with Sánchez. The reason, they say, that it appeared that they were not supporting the strike, was the very high minimum levels of staff required, levels that were set by the Junta itself. According to furious union leaders, this was a thoroughly unjust move, meaning that only 10 per cent of the centres' staff were able to take part in the action.
There were, however longer waits in the Costa del Sol's outpatients' department and an increase in appointment changes. Leovigildo Rey, who accompanied his wife to the hospital last Monday, said, "If we normally have to wait, then today we'll have to wait even more". He'd been waiting for two hours and didn't hold out much hope of being seen soon. Nor did patient José García, who had his arm in plaster and wasn't even sure if he'd be attended to at all.
On Monday the outpatients' department was running with 50 per cent of its usual staff although, in line with strike rules, it still guaranteed its full attention to serious cases and those that couldn't be cancelled. Medical tests were also being affected by the strike.
However the majority of services offered at the hospital were still available. These included the emergency, intensive care and kidney dialysis departments.
Ana Fernández, who took her daughter to the emergency department on Monday for a problem with her knee, said she wouldn't have been aware of the strike at all if it were not for the posters everywhere announcing it. "We were very well looked after and didn't have to wait long at all", she said.
Protests in Malaga
In Malaga, meanwhile, staff at the city's Carlos Haya hospital took part in another short protest against cuts on Monday. Up to 500 workers blocked off the road in front of the hospital, shouting slogans and waving banners. Various union sources say that more similar activities are planned throughout the summer.
Family doctors in the city have complained that the authority's decision to close health centres in the afternoons during the summer was overloading morning services. Staff have warned that this could affect the quality of attention provided.