THE regional ministry for Health and Consumer Affairs has doubled its 2006 budget for acquiring antiviral drugs in preparation for fighting a possible outbreak of bird flu. Minister Aina Castillo, said yesterday in her department's budget presentations for next year that the figure, originally set at 200'000 euros, will now be raised to 400'000 euros. Speaking in the Balearic parliament, Castillo confirmed she had given the issue extra cover in the face of the possibility of the spread of the disease. Currently, bird flu cannot be transmitted from human to human, but the strain of the virus, deadly for domesticated and wildfowl alike, may mutate and become highly contagious amongst humans. Enlarging on her budget proposals, the minister called on Opposition parties to show a sense of responsibility by backing her proposals to set up “a sound public health service”. She emphasised that the regional government has shown ample good faith in ensuring that people on the Islands have access to good health care by separately subsidising the National Health Service to the tune of 21.8 percent of its budget. The move had become necessary because of underfunding from central government. Castillo explained that 97.3 percent of her budget goes to Ib-Salut, the Balearic Health Service which currently services some 980'351 people across the Islands. Of the funds to be made available next year, 37.2 million euros will go to projects on Majorca, 19.1 million to health centres and hospitals on Minorca, and 10.9 million will be invested in Ibiza and Formentera.

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