To show that, despite its problems, the Community's Primary Care "is neither chaotic nor collapsed", the Minister of Health, Julio García Comesaña, put a statistic on the table: out of every ten Galicians who make an appointment with their doctor bedside, almost nine (87%) get care in less than four days. Comesaña admitted, however, that the system has weak points and announced this Tuesday in the plenary session of the regional Parliament a series of measures to, among other things, encourage doctors to work in rural centers. The “most unique” measure – as he himself defined it – is to offer 106 private family doctor positions, through a merit-based competition and without the need to present an opposition, in areas of difficult coverage.
The objective is to make them "more attractive", and the forecast that they can be incorporated as early as September.
The opposition listened with suspicion to the appearance, at its own request, of the Minister of Health before the plenary session of the Autonomous Chamber. As for the data exposed by Comesaña to demonstrate that the waiting times in Primary Care are reasonable, the spokesman on the subject of the socialist group, Julio Torrado, launched into his seat the empirical experiment of requesting an appointment for his family doctor. And the result was that Torrado had the "bad luck" of being among "the ten percent" of Galicians who did not get an appointment in four days. Nor for the following. On Twitter, others joined the practice, posting a screenshot of the search result on the web. The also deputy of the PSdeG in the autonomous Parliament Noelia Otero published that she, in her case, had found a place for July 1. And the spokeswoman for the Galician PP in the Chamber on health matters, María Encarnación Amigo, counterattacked the socialists exposing her case: "Let me make an appointment for tomorrow, here I have it," she refuted from the rostrum. Half jokingly, half seriously, Torrado invited the Minister to join the experiment to "undo the tie." Comesaña did not enter the rag: "When they are given information that they do not like, they say it is false."
Beyond the personal experiences of each deputy –and each citizen–, Comesaña assured that “the reality” of the waiting lists in Primary Care is different. And he added that 67% of those who make an appointment get seen in a maximum of two days. Of course, in Primary Care there is room for improvement, he recognized, basically because there is a lack of doctors: "The workload will not improve as long as we do not inject more professionals," Comesaña assessed. And he pointed to the central government of Pedro Sánchez, which "is doing little to solve it." "As long as the other party does not make decisions within its powers in regard to the training of specialties, we cannot continue advancing", added the councilor. “If the central government had prioritized Primary Care, we would not be in this situation. There is a situation of shortage of professionals specialized in family medicine. You have to take that reality into account."
As for what is in the hands of the regional administration, Comesaña announced in plenary a set of measures with incentives for those health professionals who have to do additional sessions; attend to the patients of an absent colleague, or provide service to health centers with difficult coverage in rural settings. All this, he explained, is included in the Galician Primary Care Plan 2019-2021. "We want to offer better conditions to professionals who have to work in a complicated global framework, such as the current one," he summed up. The amounts for those who have to replace a colleague are increased, and, for example, the remuneration will be increased for those who accept an increase in the patient quota.
The opposition lukewarmly received all these measures. Torrado considered that the reason that recent graduates do not usually opt for specialization in Primary Care "is not a problem of economic conditions only", but of having "discredited the system", since the Xunta "abandoned them to their fate", making them feel “second-class professionals”. And to this should be added another question, according to the Socialist spokesman in Parliament. The cuts from a decade ago: “Together with today's conditions they are the perfect storm. They cut with a smile on their face, and this is the consequence».
For her part, Montserrat Prado (BNG) had no doubts that "Primary Care in Galicia is in a situation of authentic health alert", and that is not solved with "occurrences". And she pointed directly to Comesaña to address the problem: «You are responsible for making Primary Care attractive».