BALEARIC health minister Aina Castillo said that the economic situation of her department was “complicated” and meant that policies would have to be guided by “realism”. The minister spoke of the “inheritance” from the previous government and emphasized that in 2004, it will be of key importance to establish “an economic policy based on proper planning, making best use of resources and new ways of financing”. The department budget for 2004 stands at 696.4 million euros, a 2.35% increase over and above the previous year. The Balearic Health Service Ibsalut (the new name of the National Health Service in the islands), will receive the greatest share of 670 million euros, 2.3% more than in 2002. One of the basic themes open to discussion was the will to establish an all-party “health pact” whereby Opposition groups would unite in a “crucial push towards a stable, reliable health system”. Castillo gave prominence to the need to “concentrate on the human aspect of funding for the Health department. Patients need to be treated as people instead of a number”, she asserted. The Socialists, however, seized the opportunity to point out that public hospitals were going to receive less money under 2004 budgets. As an example, they gave the 13% fall in budget allocated to the General Hospital. “You speak of humanisation” said former health minister Aina Salom from the Opposition benches. “In which case, you owe an explanation to the public health service patients about why there will be less money for them in 2004”. New features this year will include the establishment of a patient's ombudsman; the creation of a foundation to help drug addicts and a 24-hour epidemic alert service.

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