Palma.— “If the management of the Joan March and General Hospitals in Palma can clearly demonstrate they can keep going as a financial concern, then we won't have to close them,” Balearic government spokesman Rafael Bosch said yesterday. He added though that Central Government austerity measures still govern regional Health ministry spending and that further cuts may be needed to keep the hospitals open.

Bosch's comments come in the wake of a long-running dispute over whether these two hospitals, largely used for palliative care, should be closed because they are not financially viable. The Health Ministry has said that their closure would be compensated by the opening of part of the old Son Dureta hospital to care for long-term illness sufferers.

Critics have said this alternative is too expensive and that it would cost more to open the old Son Dureta than to close the Joan March and General hospitals. Bosch said that the Balearic Health ministry has the final say on closure and that there has been no major change of policy in tabling proposals for theJoan March and General Hospitals remaining open. “Each ministry has its priorities and financial restrictions. If the two Palma hospitals remain open, it is because their financial management fall within limitations imposed on spending by Madrid,” said Bosch. “The new administration team at the Balearic Health department under Antoni Mesquida will take a serious look at proposals being tabled by the hospital staff and management,” Bosch said. “But the region has to keep its spending under strict control if it is to obtain financing from Central Government, and that will be the ministry's chief concern,” he warned.

The spokesman meanwhile totally rejected any suggestion that there are aims to privatise the Joan March and General Hospitals. “This alternative is not on the table,” he said.

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