Catalan hospitals have started to apply closures and cuts to their services, although without issuing official notifications to the majority of staff and patients (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Budget cuts were notified to the hospitals by the Generalitat's Health Department last month, and were initially planned for the summer, but many have decided to start making their changes early. The Generalitat has also notified those hospitals with whom they have certain services contracted (56 of 64 public hospitals in Catalunya) of the medical services that they will not pay for this year (operations, hospitalisations, visits and diagnostic tests). For example, Hospital Clínic will have €24 million less this year compared to 2010; it is closing 71 beds as well as an exclusive dermatological ward, which is at the forefront of treating people in Spain with skin cancer and auto-immune skin diseases—instead, the 16 beds it contains will now be used for geriatric patients who would previously have been treated at the Maternitat Hospital. As such, hospitals are trying to ensure that the cuts don't just fall in the last few months of the year. It may also be that following this Sunday's municipal elections, budgets will be reduced even further, as the Generalitat reveals the second half of its plan for spending restrictions.
The number of people protesting in Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya increased last night in response to the Central Electoral Board's decision to ban such actions for this weekend, which have been taking place in the main cities in Spain this week (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Thousands of people headed to the city centre square yesterday evening for a cacerolada, where they collectively bang wooden spoons on pots and pans as a demonstration of discontent (such protests became common during Spain's participation in the Iraq War under former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar); according to those taking part, there were 7,000 people in Plaça Catalunya, the largest gathering since protestors started setting up there following last Saturday's demonstration against budget cuts and government policies. While many of those who camp out during the night in the square leave during the day, to go to work or study, around 200 to 300 people remain to keep the protest going. Last night, there were shouts of "they won't move us" from the 2,000 or so people camping out, in response to the Electoral Board's ruling that the protests couldn't continue during tomorrow's day of reflection following the campaign for the municipal elections (and, in some communities, autonomous government elections) taking place on Sunday, a day on which the Board also said the camps were not allowed.
This Sunday's Formula One race at the Catalan course of Montmeló is not going to be just another round in this season's competition; instead it will be key in deciding the strategies for the rest of the year and possibly next year's contest as well (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). In this weekend's contest, it will be seen whether the Ferrari and McLaren teams are able to put up a proper fight with the dominant Red Bull drivers and cars, particularly Sebastian Vettel who is currently at the top of the leader board by some way (he has won three of four races so far and come second in the other one). If the two other teams are unable to put up a good fight here, they may resign themselves to not winning this year and instead focus their energies on new car designs for the 2012 competition. Montmeló will also be a good testing-ground to see if changes made to Formula One regulations (including tyres and mobile aileron) are effective for improving the races for spectators and audiences at home.