The Spanish Government's “Boomerang” Hashtag

This article is part of our special news coverage Europe in Crisis.

Spain's government is being flooded with “tides” of all colors: the “green tide” [es] of professors, students, and parents against cuts to education and reforms, the “black tide” [es] of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers against the judicial system and the imposition of fees for utilizing the law, and the “white tide” [es] of healthcare personnel against reforms to Social Security and the privatization of hospitals in various autonomous communities.

Healthcare management in Spain depends on the autonomous (regional) governments. Some of these autonomous governments, due to the economic crisis and cuts applied to their budgets, have decided to privatize their hospital management, given that the private companies responsible for said management will be capable of giving the same service for a smaller budget and, of course, also turn a profit for its shareholders.

One of the autonomous communities whose hospital management is about to be privatized is Madrid, which, being the nation's capital, has the biggest and most important hospitals in Spain. In Madrid, like in other communities, health workers in hospitals have mobilized and organized strikes, marches, demonstrations, and other actions aimed not only to protest these measures, but also to inform the hospitals’ patients of the danger that, in their opinion, the excellent and free-of-charge Social Security system that the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies comments on in their 2010 report on Spain [es] is in, stating the following:

Una marea blanca de sanitarios se manifiesta en contra de las políticas sanitarias del gobierno. Foto del blog Kinkalla

A “white tide” of health workers in a demonstration against the government's healthcare policies. Photo from the blog Kinkalla.

(…)  el SNS [Sistema Nacional de Salud] ha hecho gala de una notable capacidad para generar buenos resultados sostenibles con arreglo a distintos parámetros de rendimiento.

(…) Estos logros se han alcanzado con un nivel relativamente bajo de gasto (…) inferior al promedio europeo. La conclusión que puede extraerse de estos datos es que, en términos generales, los ciudadanos españoles disfrutan de un sistema sanitario con una buena relación coste-calidad.

(…) the SNS [National Healthcare System] has displayed a remarkable ability to generate sustainable results under different performance parameters.

(…) These goals have been reached with a relatively low level of spending (…) below the European average. The conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that, generally speaking, Spanish citizens enjoy a healthcare system with a good cost-quality relationship.

To counter these demonstrations, and the information that is slowly penetrating public opinion, Madrid's People's Party (PP) decided to launch its own information campaign on December 12. Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., the People's Party [es] created the Twitter hashtag #quenotelienconlasanidad [#dontletthemscrewyouonhealthcare] and used it to upload tweets explaining their vision of healthcare reforms. For example:

@ppmadrid: No se está diciendo la verdad. Algunos sólo defienden ciertos privilegios, demandas salariales y retributivas. #quenotelienconlasanidad

@ppmadrid: The truth is not being told. Some only defend certain privileges, salary demands, and compensation. #quenotelienconlasanidad [es]

@ppmadrid: Con menor presupuesto, si no se afrontan reformas el sistema público sanitario estaría en riesgo. #quenotelienconlasanidad

@ppmadrid: With a minimal budget, if reforms are not confronted, the public healthcare system will be placed at risk. #quenotelienconlasanidad

Those responsible for the initiative most likely had not counted on thousands of netizens taking advantage of the campaign to flood the PP's hashtag with tweets, turning it into a trending topic for very different reasons than those intended by its creators.

Twitter users oscar g (@oscarvk), Gema C R (@amegcr), Be-Ta-U (@medicblasto) and Nell McKinnon at (@Gadylen) were among those that used the hashtag to ensure that their opinions reached the PP:

@oscarvk: ya me va quedando todo más claro… jua, jua,jua !!! gracias al pp por dejarnos explicarlo todo aki !!! #quenotelienconlasanidad

@oscarvk: everything is slowly becoming clearer to me… ha, ha, ha!!! thank you to the PP for letting us explain everything here !!! #quenotelienconlasanidad

Cartel en una manifestación: «¿Diagnóstico? Eso era antes. Le estoy haciendo un presupuesto». Foto de la página de Facebook «A disfrutar de lo votado»

Poster from a demonstration: “Diagnosis? That was before. I am creating a budget for you.” Photo from the “Enjoy what you voted for” Facebook page.

@amegcr: Ayer no pagaba medicina, hoy si. Hoy no pago ambulancia,mañana si. Mañana no pago sanidad, pasado mañana? #quenotelienconlasanidad

@amegcr: Yesterday I didn't pay for medication, today I do. Today I'm not paying for an ambulance, tomorrow I will. Tomorrow I will not pay for healthcare, and after tomorrow? #quenotelienconlasanidad

@medicblasto: Todo vuelve al mismo punto…QUE YA SE HA PROBADO en Alzira Y NO FUNCIONA. #quenotelienconlasanidad [Vídeo sobre el Hospital semiprivado de Alzira]

@medicblasto: Everything comes back to the same point…IT WAS ALREADY TESTED in Alzira AND IT DOES NOT WORK. #quenotelienconlasanidad [Video about the semi-privatized hospital in Alzira]

@Gadylen: Lo próximo será cobrar la entrada en los centros de salud y hospitales y sin derecho a consumición / tratamiento #quenotelienconlasanidad

@Gadylen: Next they will be charging an entrance fee to health centers and hospitals and with no right to consumption / treatment #quenotelienconlasanidad

Some netizens, like Ángel (@angelfmarin) and Yefri Bomon (@yefribomon), mention Capio [es], a company that already manages several hospitals in other autonomous communities, in which there are a number of high-ranking PP shareholders and people close to the leadership, such as Rodrigo Rato, former President Aznar or María Dolores de Cospedal and her husband.

@angelfmarin#quenotelienconlasanidad A ver si os creéis que los cochazos de los consejeros de Capio se pagan solos.

@angelfmarin#quenotelienconlasanidad Let's see if you believe that the Capio executives’ fancy cars pay for themselves.

@yefribomon#quenotelienconlasanidad Capio es una empresa sin ánimo de lucro, como el Instituto Noos [El caso Noos y el yerno del rey]

@yefribomon#quenotelienconlasanidad is a non-profit organization, just like the Noos Institute [The case of Noos and the king's son-in-law]

El personal sanitario del Hospital La Paz pregunta: ¿Se ha puesto algún límite a los beneficios de las empresas concesionarias? ¿Y al sueldo de sus gerentes? Foto del blog «La voz del HULP»

The La Paz Hospital personnel ask: Has a limit been placed on the profits to concessionary companies? And their managers’ salaries? Photo from the “Voice of the HULP” blog.

It also happens that, as of January 2013, Capio will begin “managing” the hospital in Collado Villalba [es], which will not be open until some time within the next year. Over the course of this year, Madrid will pay Capio over 900,000 euros per month.

Dantes [es] and Santiago Herrera [es] remind us that the government just announced the ambulance charge for the chronically ill:

@KimeraDantes: Al subir en una ambulancia RECUERDA No hablar con el conductor No levantarte de la camilla LLEVAR el importe exacto

@KimeraDantes: When getting into an ambulance, REMEMBER: do not talk to the driver, do not get up from the bed, CARRY exact change

@Santihehe: Mirad el lado bueno, ahora trae más cuenta pedir una ambulancia que un taxi para ir al aeropuerto. #quenotelíenconlasanidad

@Santihehe: Look on the bright side, now it is more worthwhile to call an ambulance than a taxi to get to the airport. #quenotelíenconlasanidad

Simone Santini says what many Spaniards think:

@simone_santini#quenotelienconlasanidad mintiéron con las pensiones, mintiéron con el rescate, ¿y ahora les vamos a creer con la sanidad? Vamos…

@simone_santini#quenotelienconlasanidad they lied about pensions, they lied about the bailout, and now we're going to believe them on healthcare? Come on…

Although the flood of tweets against the privatization policy was overwhelming, some appeared to not notice:

@PPHortaleza: Éxito de la campaña del @ppmadrid  #quenotelienconlasanidad convirtiéndose en TT en la @ComunidadMadrid y España: …

@PPHortaleza: The success of @ppmadrid‘s #quenotelienconlasanidad campaign becoming a TT in @ComunidadMadrid and Spain: …

PP de Madrid@ppmadrid: #quenotelienconlaSanidad es TT nacional. Los ciudadanos no se creen las mentiras que se lanzan sobre la Sanidad Pública

PP de Madrid@ppmadrid#quenotelienconlaSanidad is trending nationally. Citizens do not believe the lies that are spread about Public Health.

To which Serguei Sanz [es] responded:

@Remensa_S: Si el PP tiene tanta idea de gestionar hospitales como de redes sociales debemos temer por nuestra salud

@Remensa_S: If the PP has as much of an idea on how to manage hospitals as they do for social networks, we should fear for our health

This article is part of our special news coverage Europe in Crisis.


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