Spain’s universal healthcare remains out of reach for some

By Luis Ángel Reglero

Madrid, Jul 29 (EFE).- Spain’s healthcare system is free and accessible to all, at least in theory.

The reality is that missing paperwork can further marginalize already vulnerable groups such as migrants, among them Spain’s Latin American community.

“My daughter’s passport is expired, I can’t renew it and, because of that, they tell me that she can’t be seen at the health center,” says Wendy Soto, a Guatemalan who has lived in Madrid for five years.

Her problem is echoed by many others in the migrant community.

Spanish law states that healthcare coverage applies to everyone, regardless of immigration status. But in trying to access the system, many come up against a bureaucratic maze.

Wendy, her mother and her daughter were all denied asylum status in Spain and therefore live “irregularly.” Because of this they lost their right to use the Spanish public health card.

“They have classed us as transients, even though we have been living in Spain for five years,” she tells Efe.

Some of the obstacles standing in the way of accessing public healthcare include being ineligible to register a place of residence or failure to produce a birth certificate.

Bárbara Chaparro thought she would find a better life in Spain after leaving Venezuela, but all she found was “closed doors.”

Her 8-month-old baby was born in Spain to her Spanish partner and yet, unable to obtain all the paperwork needed, she was told her only option would be to turn to private health insurance, which she says she cannot afford.

“We all have the right to health, to treatment,” she says, adding that the last time she needed medical assistance, she was informed that she would be charged for the service.

The issues do not arise in Spain’s ER departments, where everyone is treated regardless of their status, but rather when trying to secure consultation with the family doctor or a prescription.

María Tambriz, a young Guatemalan who has been in Spain for three years, has had trouble getting residency documents for her daughter who is nearly one, a process which is further complicated by “being foreign,” she says.

It can be difficult even for those with Spanish nationality. That is the case for Verónica Simbañía, of Ecuadorian origin, who is struggling to secure identity documents for her two daughters, aged 2 and 5, which are necessary for the health card.

Some of these mothers turn to NGOs such as the Fundación Madrina in Madrid.

“Every child, regardless of whether they have papers or not, has a right to healthcare,” Conrado Jiménez says as he attends to mothers and their children, including many babies.

He says some of the issues arise from lack of formal agreements in the ambit of health between Spain and countries like Venezuela, Honduras and Guatemala, which leads to many migrants becoming excluded from the health system once they arrive in Spain.

The Fundación Madrina helps migrants navigate Spain’s bureaucracy, provides medicine and offers scans for pregnant women.

But the head of the organization says charity is not the solution to the problem.

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