The public health service in Malaga and on the Costa del Sol is facing industrial action this autumn because of a simmering dispute over a lack of medical staff.
What doctors' representatives say is a shortage in community health centres was worsened over the summer when many workers were on holiday. They say they had to cover the patients of colleagues in July and August without locums. There has also been a reported increase in violence against staff recently.
With summer over, GPs and paediatric doctors have said they can't wait for extra staff any longer and will start strikes from 15 October. There will be stoppages for four hours during the morning surgery and four hours in the afternoon. Doctors will down tools from 11am to 3pm and from 4pm to 8pm.
The front-line doctors are also demanding, as part of their action, more time per patient and an improvement in salaries to match those in the rest of Spain.
Carlos Bautista of local doctors' group 'Basta ya'( That's enough) said, " The situation is unsustainable. It's been a bad summer because of the lack of locum staff. The SAS health service hasn't listened to our requests. Unhappiness among doctors is getting worse. The strike is the only way out and to get the authorities to see our discontent."
He added that emergency treatment in the centres during the strikes will be guaranteed. Minimum services are also expected to be maintained in normal surgeries during the stoppages.
'Basta ya' and the SMM medical union have also restarted the protests that they began earlier this summer. Although the demonstrations at the doors of medical centres have been focused on the Malaga city area, representatives of workers from centres along the Costa del Sol have been present in the 'Basta ya' meetings.
Feeling of powerlessness
The president of the Malaga doctors' association (Colegio de Médicos), Juan José Sánchez Luque, said that "the strike is a response to a feeling of powerlessness" in the health centres and the increase in verbal and physical attacks on staff this summer. He added that he hoped that the regional government and health service would react and that urgent solutions could be found.
Sources at the Junta de Andalucía regional government said that the health service it runs had spent 25.2 million euros on bringing in 3,700 relief staff this summer in hospitals and health centres in Malaga province, a two per cent increase on last year.