The Association in Defense of Public Health (ADSP) warns that the health budgets for 2024 are once again “unrealistic, lacking rigor and impossible to meet”, because “they foresee spending much less than that executed in previous years, and issue false conclusions by presenting some figures and percentages in a biased way. Next year, the Community will allocate 2,503 million euros to the Murcian Health Service (SMS), the Ministry of Health and the Foundation for Biosanitary Training and Research (FFIS), according to the accounts presented on December 1 by the counselor, Juan José Pedreño, in the Regional Assembly. They are almost 400 million less than the real expenditure executed in 2021, which reached 2,895 million euros, says the ADSP with data from the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry has not yet published the data corresponding to 2022. Based on the liquidation of expenses managed by the Community, the PSOE estimates the deficit generated that year in regional health at around 800 million. 2021 and 2022 were marked by the enormous resources that had to be mobilized to confront the pandemic. In principle, it could be assumed that expenses in 2024 will decrease once the health crisis has passed, which would bring the budget closer to real spending. In this sense, the 2,503 million budgeted for 2024 coincide with the health disbursement of 2019, the year before the pandemic. But the ADPS reminds that for next year there is a higher forecast of expenses. Not only because the population of the Region of Murcia has increased, but above all due to measures such as the application of the 35-hour work week, which will lead to the hiring of 1,400 professionals. Added to this are increases in overtime to address the high waiting times, aggravated as a result of the Covid health crisis.
The Association in Defense of Public Health recalls that the personnel chapter takes seven out of every ten euros of the 2024 budgets, which reflects “falsely” reduced accounts “in the rest of the chapters.” “The enormous deviation in pharmacy spending is very striking, without any measure being contemplated to reduce it,” warns the ADSP in its report. In 2022, 540 million were budgeted for pharmacies, but “spending exceeded 1,000 million,” which represents a deviation of 85%.
But not all the analysis is negative. The ADSP sees some positive aspects in the public accounts for 2024. For example, the specific sections for Primary Care, with an improvement strategy that is allowing the workforce to be expanded. However, the report warns of a “slowdown” in the investments planned in this Primary Care Improvement Strategy (GEAP). Thus, there are six projects that according to this document should be launched in 2024 that do not appear in the budgets. Among them, the health centers of Librilla, Las Torres de Cotillas and La Ribera (San Javier). There are other centers that have been waiting for decades, such as those in Santiago and Zaraiche. The ADPS points out that some of the projects that should have started in 2023 are included again in 2024 without their execution having begun, such as the Yecla, Bullas, Nonduermas or Lorca San Cristóbal centers.
According to Health, the global budget for Primary in 2024 will be 548 million euros, almost 15 more than in 2023. But the ADSP denounces that this figure is inflated with the pharmaceutical expenditure item, a practice that it already denounced last year. According to the analysis of this association, Primary will represent 15.9% of the total budget (400.2 million euros), a percentage still far from the objective of reaching 25%.
Regarding the Mental Health Improvement Strategy, the ADPS denounces that “these budgets are also not met and delayed.” Thus, “in infrastructure investments, only 1.5 million are budgeted for 2024, when the strategy contemplates the need for a budget until 2026 of 18.8 million, which would require an average annual budget of close to 4 million.” .
The ADSP proposes several “improvements” in public accounts. To begin with, “full compliance” with the strategies in Primary and Mental Health, as well as “a community care strategy that takes into account social determinants” and is “aimed at health promotion and prevention.” The association is committed to “bringing forward” the hiring of social workers to 2024 so that all health centers in the Region of Murcia have at least one of these professionals. On waiting lists, they demand greater transparency and the reduction “to a minimum” of the percentage of patients who are without an assigned date for a first appointment with the specialist or for a diagnostic test. More than 85,000 people were in this situation at the end of June, according to the latest data published by the SMS.
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