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Andalucía health service bosses resign after protests against hospital mergers

Protesters over health cuts in Granada praise Jesús Candel.
Protesters over health cuts in Granada praise Jesús Candel. / EFE
  • Widespread discontent with the Junta in Granada is channelled through a doctor turned folk hero nicknamed Spiriman, as opposition criticises medical cutbacks

Growing criticism of the Junta de Andalucía's management of the public health service dramatically increased this week after the resignation of two key regional government bosses.

The deputy minister for Health, Martín Blanco, and the director of the Andalusian public health service, Servicio Andaluz de Salud (SAS), José Manuel Aranda, left their posts.

The move came after mounting street protests, particularly in Granada and Huelva, but also in other cities including Malaga, Jerez and Seville, against SAS plans to merge hospitals and other reorganisation.

Spiriman leads rallies

In Granada the protests have been particularly well attended in recent months, with as many as 43,000 taking part in a rally last October. The huge turnouts in that city have been largely attributed to a 40-year-old doctor, Jesús Candel, who has driven a campaign across social media, branding himself as a pseudo-superhero called Spiriman.

Speaking in support of the protests in Granada, Candel said, "We want [the Junta] to open its windows and let fresh air in to clean out some 'tricksters', as I call them".

Head of the Junta, Susana Díaz, has previously defended her record on public health provision, describing it as "the jewel in the crown", however the last straw for her health officials' positions appears to have come last Sunday, when 5,000 people protested in Jerez.

Not all budget spent

Díaz's PSOE-led government now faces a political fight to rebuild credibility in their management of SAS.

Opposition parties stated in a debate in the regional parliament this week that the resignations were not enough and that a change of model for the health service was needed.

The PP party has pointed out that of the 98 million euros of new investment planned in health services last year, only 27 million had been spent by the 30 November.