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Thousands protest in Spain’s Andalusia in defence of public health services

Thousands of protestors took to the streets across Andalusia in defence of public health services on Saturday, demanding a stop to the deterioration of public services and slow privatisation of the region's healthcare system.

Thousands protest in Spain's Andalusia in defence of public health services
The protests come just weeks after thousands took to the streets in Madrid in defence of the capital's public healthcare services.(Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Thousands of people demonstrated in several cities across Andalusia in defence of public health services on Saturday.

The main demonstration was held in Seville, the southern region’s capital, where police say 4,000 people took part. Organisers of the protest put the figure at 20,000.

Up to 400 protesters took to the streets in Cádiz, and around a thousand in Granada, though police claim there were just 200.

Protestors demanded the regularisation of 12,000 “false contracts” given to doctors in the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) who arrived as reinforcements during the pandemic, as well as face-to-face care within 48 hours of requesting an appointment, 12 minutes of care per patient, and the boosting of rural emergency and preventive community care.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is running out of doctors

A spokesman for the event, retired doctor Sebastián Martín, highlighted the support “as never seen before” and pointed out that there are around 2.5 million private health policies in Andalusia, adding that “it is important that civil society stands up to them.”

Adelante Andalucía representative Maribel Mora stressed that “we have to defend public health care whoever governs,” criticising “the deterioration of health care over many years” and adding that “now much more money is going to private health care.”

Toni Valero, spokesmen for the leftist grouping of parties IULV-CA called on the Andalusian president Juanma Moreno to “take note” of the “success” of the demonstration and that Andalusian society had clearly “had enough.”

The protests come just weeks after thousands took to the streets in Madrid in defence of the capital’s public healthcare services.

READ ALSO: Thousands rally in defence of Madrid public healthcare

In Granada, the PSOE health spokesperson in the Andalusian parliament, María Ángeles Prieto, stated that public healthcare “can no longer cope” and that was why thousands of Andalusians have taken to the streets. Prieto demanded the regional government invest in public health and asked Moreno to stop the steady privatisation process and stop “transferring” money from the public to the private sector “so that some people can do business.”

However, Regional Minister of Health Catalina García has denied that there is a “progressive deterioration” in Andalusian healthcare.

She stressed improvements in the last four years, including a supposed 30,000 more professionals in the health sector. “The Andalusian health system, according to objective data, is better than it was four years ago. That is undeniable,” she claimed in a statement.

According to the García, the lack of medical professionals in a national problem affecting health systems in all regions of Spain.

READ ALSO: What is the average waiting time across Spain to see a doctor?

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HEALTH

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has some of the best fertility clinics in Europe and people travel from all over for assisted reproduction techniques here, both because of the high success rates and standard of care, but what are the invitro fertilisation rules in Spain?

What are the rules on IVF in Spain?

Spain has the second lowest fertility rate in the EU, with an average of 1.23 children per woman, according to the latest data provided by the European Statistical Office, Eurostat, corresponding to 2019 and updated at the end of June 2021.

A report by the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), says that more and more couples are having problems conceiving and many are choosing to undergo assisted reproductive techniques in order to become parents.  

They consider infertility as: “the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of sexual intercourse with normal frequency and without the use of any method of conception”.

Although male infertility factors are responsible for between 25 percent to 35 percent of cases, the number of older women who want to have children in Spain is the number one issue, the society explains.

But, it’s not just Spaniards who use fertility clinics in Spain, people come from all over Europe and even further afield. A recent study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that five percent of European fertility care involves patients cross border travel and that the most popular European destinations are Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Belgium.

In 2019, Spanish fertility clinics carried out 18,457 treatment cycles for foreigners, the majority from France and Italy. According to Barcelona IVF, the French, English and Italian are the ones who travel the most to Spain to undergo fertility treatments.

So what are the rules on IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques in Spain? 

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain states that any woman over 18 years old can undergo reproductive techniques in Spain regardless of marital status and sexual orientation. Egg freezing for future use is also allowed.

This legal framework establishes that assisted reproductive techniques can only be used when there are possibilities of success and when they do not pose a serious risk to the health of the patient.

The IVF law in Spain does not allow for uterus transplants or the use of surrogates or gestational carriers.  

While the law has not yet incorporated any mention of ROPA techniques, this is also offered in Spain. The ROPA method is used when women in a same-sex relationship want to share parenthood, whereby one provides the egg and the other one carries the baby.

What is the law on PGD and PGS testing?

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD is when the embryos are tested for specific inherited genetic issues such as cystic fibrosis. PGS also referred to as PGT-A is Preimplantation Genetic Screening or Testing and tests to see whether the embryo is genetically normal. The second one is typically used for women over the age of 35 or for those who have had multiple implantation failures or miscarriages.

Both types of tests are legal in Spain, however, the IVF law prohibits these tests to allow for selecting the sex of the baby or for physical characteristics. In some countries, such as the US for example, it’s very common to find out the sex of the embryo when these tests are carried out.

What are the rules for IVF in public health care?

Assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF and artificial semination are available through the public health care system in Spain, however, out of the more than 400 fertility centres in Spain only between 10 and 20 percent are public centres.

READ ALSO: Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

This means that there are also long waitlists for reproductive techniques through the public system, as well as stricter rules. According to the latest data available, wait lists for IVF are just over one year, however, in many regions, this can go up to two years or longer. In fact, waiting much longer than this is not uncommon.

The government laws establish that the maximum age to undergo these treatments in the public health system is 40 years in the case of women and 55 years for men. This age limit drops to 38 in the case of insemination with a partner’s semen.

The state guarantees a maximum of three rounds of IVF, six if it is by artificial insemination with donor sperm and four if it is with a partner’s sperm. 

Some regions in Spain, have their own rules however such as Madrid which raised the age to 45 and increased the number of rounds from two to four. 

READ ALSO: Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45

What are the laws on egg and sperm donations?

The In Vitro Fertilisation Law in Spain also regulates egg and sperm donation. Egg and sperm donation in Spain is anonymous, voluntary and altruistic.  

The choice of the donor will only be made by a medical team and cannot be selected by the patients, however, doctors will try to match certain physical characteristics. 

Is embryo donation/ embryo adoption legal in Spain?

Yes, according to Article 11 of the law 14/2006 embryo donation or embryo adoption as it is commonly referred to is legal in Spain. Donations must be anonymous and altruistic. 

A couple may wish to donate their embryos if they have a surplus and have already completed their family, while a couple or single woman may want to adopt an embryo if there have issues with their eggs or sperm.

What are the costs of IVF in Spain? 

IVF is a costly process when you go privately, but prices in Spain can be almost half of those you would pay in the US for example. According to the IVF Abroad Patient’s Guide 2022 for IVF using your own eggs, the costs range from €3,600 to €6,700. 

If using an egg donor, it can range from €5,900 to €8,500. For IVF using embryo donation, the costs range from €3,000 to €5,000 and for IVF involving egg freezing, the costs range from €3,500 to €4,700.

Medications for the injections are typically not included in these prices and can cost an extra €1,000 on top. 

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