In the last four months I have spent more time that I would have wished sitting in London's St Thomas' Hospital and Barcelona's Hospital Sant Pau (the former because my mother is not at all well, and the second, for my own health). In both I have had oodles of opportunities to watch the nurses, doctors and orderlies going about their respective businesses and upon seeing their professionalism in the face of often exasperating situations and their patience in the face of even more exasperating patients, I found myself filling up with unadulterated admiration for them all. Both St Thomas' and Sant Pau – like all other public hospitals - are wincing from the financial pinch put on them, in this case, by the governments of Britain and Catalonia. In St Thomas', the nurses are being shunted from ward to ward in an impossible attempt to make up for an omnipresent staff shortage; and Sant Pau, whose funding couldn't have been more slashed if they'd put a Hollywood pirate on the job, has now been draped by its staff in so many furious protest banners it looks like a scrubbed version of the Plaça Catalunya when the Indignant Ones were still permitted to roost there. In short, how can it be that the hospitals, of all institutions, are getting it in the neck? If governments need to reduce public spending, let them start by retiring all those glum functionaries whose only real function seems to be telling us they can't help us because we haven't brought the right documents; let there be cutbacks on official vehicles, police accessories, tourist offices, roadworks... Let culture itself be cut, if needs be, if only those responsible would keep their scissor-laden hands off the hospitals, those irreplaceable places that usher most of us into this life and usher most of us out of it, once their admirable doctors and nurses can do no more for our health. So go on, you miserly, shilly-shallying hams who apparently represent us in Westminster and the Plaça Sant Jaume, get into the Christmas spirit for once, and surprise us pleasantly. Just this once.
Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, desembre de 2011