Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hospital kitchen privatization in Navarre or how the private sector is highly inneficient

Until weeks ago, the hospital kitchen at Osasunbidea (the public health care system of Navarre) was managed by Osasunbidea itself and worked just fine. But the far right government of UPN-PP has decided to privatize the service. The result: corruption and disaster.

On one hand the company assigned to the service, Mediterránea de Catéring (Medicat) is owned by a member of the party ruling in Spain and Navarre (PP, UPN pretends autonomy but is a mere delegation of this all-Spain neofascist/conservative party).  This already implies a suspicion of corruption and cronyism, something way too common when the public treasury uses our taxes to pay private companies providing a service. Way too often bribes (outright corruption) and the implicit mutual promises of excessive "friendship" (cronyism) get in the way at this preliminary stage, not just costing the public more for less, not just degrading the social ethics, but displacing the more honorable companies who decline to take part in these corrupt practices. 

But there is another side to this problem. The main measure used to gauge private sector offers is cheapness. And cheapness almost invariably comes at the cost of quality. This can have deadly consequences: from nuclear reactors made of cheap parts that rot away, to buildings that have to be demolished before they fall on the heads of the new scammed owners, to hospital meals that can well kill you. 

This last is the case of Medicat servicing the Hospital Virgen del Camino in Pamplona (and soon also in two other public hospitals) after the new IMF-style "reforms" in the old kingdom. Medicat meals have already resulted in massive complains for horrible taste and incredible delays that cause major risks to diabetics but also for many other patients who cannot take their meds (which are aggressive for the digestive system) before their meals. So this apparent great capitalist idea is already causing big problems in their first days just because the contractor happens to be inefficient and cheap. 

On top of that there have been numerous reports of lack of hygiene or dietary errors that have included even coffee for children, just an example. While in some cases these errors can be just a matter of laughs, in others they can cause serious problems and even death (just imagine an allergic person given the allergene in a meal supposedly designed for his/her particular needs). This is what is happening at Virgen del Camino since the capitalist method took over: no description of food composition, foods that cannot be differentiated in any obvious way, meals wrongly sent to another floor, etc.

And citizens are paying them, instead of keeping highly effective public workers, for such a criminal "service" that can well end with somebody dead and somebody else in jail for manslaughter. 

The problem seems to be that the cheapskate Medicat company does not have enough workers (typical). That's why they can offer at so low apparent cost (and so high hidden cost for public health). They have lots of costly high tech machines but simply not enough workers (34, scattered in many shifts) to provide the adequate service. If they hire more workers they will lose money, so they will not or only late and under high pressure.

Instead of doing that, Medicat is firing kitchen auxiliaries who they blame for the errors. So the errors will no doubt persist. 

Now they serve 400 beds but they are supposed to take care of as many as 800 in no time and they simply do not plan to expand their installations nor hire more personnel. 

Who does all this benefit? Incredibly enough this dangerous mess does benefit some: private clinics, typically owned by the Catholic cult Opus Dei. By lowering the quality of the basic services provided by the state, the private speculators can get benefits, providing services that are usually not too good but comparatively better than the crappy ones they allow the state to offer, if they allow any state service at all. 

Capitalism: give us your life that we will give you some crap in pretty wrappings.

Source: Gara[es].

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