‘Spanish nurses wipe backsides in Germany’

The head of Spain's top nursing association said he was "ashamed" that Spanish nurses were leaving for Germany to do menial health care work at a time when Spain itself needs over 100,000 new nurses.

'Spanish nurses wipe backsides in Germany'
Some 20,000 nurses in Spain have lost their jobs in recent years. File photo: Patrick Bernard/AFP

Nurses are "going to Germany to wash bums," said Máximo González Jurado, the President of the Spanish Council of Nurses (CGE) on Monday.

The Germans recruit Spanish nurses "to work in old people's homes doing less qualified work than auxiliary nurses in Spain", he said during a press conference to launch a new report on the perilous state of the nursing profession in Spain.

"We are subsidizing Germany's health system," said the nursing boss.

Government cuts to health — spending fell by 0.5 percent from 2009 to 2011 — have seen some 20,000 nurses in Spain lose their jobs. 

Many have left the country in a bid to find work, and around 5,000 Spanish nurses are thought to be working in Germany according to Spanish nursing union SATSE. 

A large number have also found work in the UK. 

The Local spoke to one Madrid-based nurse who has taken the extreme step of commuting from the Spanish capital to London for around one week a month. 

"There is no work for nurses in Spain," Marta de Frutos told The Local.

"Recently I got four days a month covering someone's maternity leave in Madrid, but the last job before that was a year ago. 

"I'm better off working in London," said the young nurse who lives with her husband but stays with her brother when she is in the UK capital.

"Shift work is far better organized there. And If I book ahead, my flights cost around £80 (€96), and I can earn £230 for a shift in London, so it is worth it."

Marta told The Local about 80 percent of the privately advertised jobs at Madrid's medical college are for jobs in the UK and Germany.    

It's news that will hardly be music to the ears of CGE President González Jurado.

Speaking on Monday, he lamented the diminishing number of nursing jobs in Spain at a time when Spain needs around 108,000 new nurses just to meet European nursing level averages. 

Spain has 528 nurses per 100,000 inhabitants according to 2013 figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). The European Union average is 759.  

That puts Spain in 20th place in Europe.

The country's medical field is also top heavy with the ratio of nurses to doctors being 57.12 percent to 42.88 percent.

By contrast, in Finland — which the WHO considers a shining example of how to run a health system  — there are more than nine nurses for every doctor.

Finland also tops the nursing level rankings with  2,356 nurses per 100,000 people. In the UK, that number is 947.

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Picasso Museum overturns ‘art risk’ breastfeeding ban

A mother who started to breastfeed while viewing an exhibit at the Picasso Museum in Málaga was asked to leave the gallery, prompting a chorus of complaints.

Picasso Museum overturns 'art risk' breastfeeding ban
Archive image of a woman in Spain breastfeeding. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP.

The Picasso Museum in Málaga insisted that breastfeeding was not allowed  under regulations banning food and drink inside the gallerys to avoid damage to the exhibits.

A mother was viewing an exhibit at the Picasso Museum of Málaga on January 5th with her one-year-old baby son in tow. 

While looking at the artwork, the woman said her baby started to signal that he wanted to be fed, so she sat down and started to nurse him, she explained to group Lactancia en Libertad – Breastfeeding in Freedom.

A museum security guard went to the woman and told her that breastfeeding was not allowed within exhibition rooms and that she would have to move to the cafeteria to continue to nurse her child. The museum had a sign at the entrance that explained this.

The mother said that after leaving the gallery room, her baby started to get restless so she decided to leave the museum without seeing all of the displays.

The woman filed a complaint to the museum and a chorus of pro-public breastfeeding groups jumped in to support her effort.

“It seems wrong that in these times there is still controversy over breastfeeding in public places,” wrote Lactancia en Libertad in a post on February 2nd, who said they had recieved at least one other complaint about the museum.

“It's hard to believe, but that is why our association was created, in order to have a place complaints from mothers who are reprimanded and expelled from places, and so that society see that these incidents happen relatively often and are not isolated events.”

The group later published what they said was an initial response letter from the museum to the mother of the one-year-old, explaining that the museum had “rigorous policy of conservation” of their artwork.

“These guidelines try to avoid all possible risks, and therefore we do not permit eating or drinking in exposition rooms, including for babies and small children,” states the letter, signed by manager Guillermo Peiró.

Lactancia en Libertad created a Facebook page opposing the museum's policy, gathering more than 400 members within about a week. 

But on Monday, the museum seemed to have had a change of heart as artistic director José Lebrero announced that women would be allowed to breastfeed in exhibit halls “when it is necessary”, according to El Pais.

Lebrero said that have reviewing the case, he decided that there was no written protocol on breastfeeding and therefore they would allow mothers to nurse freely when they choose to.

Other breastfeeding groups praised the decision, including the Association to Breastfeed in Córdoba, which wrote on Twitter that “we give a congratulations to Lactancia in Freedom and gratitude to the Picasso Museum which has come to its senses and rectified itself”.

Supporters of the free breastfeeding policy had also pointed out that other museums like London's National Gallery allow women to nurse “anywhere”.

Maternity groups filed a complaint last year in Granada when a mother was expelled from a historic tourist site because she was breastfeeding. Authorities in charge of the site later apologized for the incident.

And left-wing Podemos party representative Carolina Bescansa made headlines when she brought her baby son and nursed him openly at the opening session of the new parliament in January.