State hospital – or a three-star hotel?

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ANYONE accompanying a patient overnight at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic’s maternity unit can expect to pay at least €47.

This is what the hospital charges for occupying an armchair, rising to between €70 and €80 if a bed is made up in the patient’s room.

It is frequent – and sometimes expected by nursing staff – for a relation to accompany a patient day and night in Spanish hospitals, and the Clinic’s money-raiser has been strongly criticised.

“A caesarean at the maternity unit usually requires three days in hospital, which works out at €240 – the same as a three-star hotel,” said union sources who described the prices as abusive.

The state-run hospital had been offering this “service” for some time, a spokesman admitted.  Introduced to increase sources of revenue, it was necessary at a time when spending cuts were affecting the health service, he maintained.

Charges for staying overnight generally applied only to units like Maternity, where there were more spare beds, he said.  Elsewhere in the hospital, this was less usual because fewer beds were available.

The practice will soon be copied by another of the city’s health service hospital, L’Esperança which has been hard-hit by cutbacks, together with Igualada hospital in Barcelona province.

The hospitals were accused of taking the first steps towards co-payment by the unions: “They started by charging for the television.  Then they took water off the patients’ menus and they have to buy water from a vending machine to take pills.”

“The authorities deny there is co-payment but in practice it already exists,” said  union sources, insisting there were ways of economising without directly affecting patients.

By Annie Maples 

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