The wage increases leave the Health sector with no room to implement new policies in Catalonia.

Money, this time, for the professionals. The Health Minister of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Manel Balcells, presented on Friday the budgets of his Department in parliamentary commission, reaching a record figure (12,132 million) but with the lowest growth (3.6%, about 424 million) post-pandemic. Health’s increase is significantly lower than the general (9.6%) budget of the Generalitat.
Health will allocate half of the growth to salaries: 183 new million for workers of the Catalan Health Institute (public provider) and 34 for those of the Siscat (agreed healthcare), representing 217 of the extra 424 million for 2024. During his speech, the Minister mentioned improvements already included in the 2023 accounts, pointing out global improvements of “352 million” or even “800” for professionals, which are mostly not new. The salary update leaves the Department with little room to execute new policies in 2024. “We will not make new actions in 2024,” admitted Balcells in an announcement. “The money will be used to consolidate the actions initiated in 2023, which are very important and far-reaching.”
The main novelty of the budgets is the calculation of the Primary Care (PC) allocation. According to Health, it will allocate 29.1% of the budget to this area after consulting the counting model with the World Health Organization (WHO). A report published in December 2021 tried to centralize how to account for spending, and the Generalitat understands that all services included in the Primary Care services portfolio, such as pharmacology and vaccines, should be included. The report does not mention the need to allocate 25% of the Health budget to PC, as traditionally defended by the sector. However, the increase for this healthcare sector is 142.6 million and its weight in the total budget barely changes (29.1% versus 28.9% from last year). The budgets reflect increases in acute hospital care (77 million), intermediate care (29.9 million), and mental health (38.2).
Balcells has shown a commitment to facilitating access to the healthcare system, one of his government’s priorities. He has celebrated the consolidation of scheduling by reasons, a protocol that prioritizes healthcare according to users’ conditions when they visit a medical center and directs them to nurses or doctors more precisely. “The goal is to reduce the delay of visits up to 48 hours if it is for nursing or medical reasons,” he emphasized.
Throughout his speech, Balcells acknowledged the difference between the Department’s budget and the consolidated expenditure, which is much higher. In 2023, Health spent 15,129 million, 3,421 more (22.6%) than the 11,708 budgets. For this, the 2024 budget includes a fund of 800 million to reduce this chronic spending.

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