Health care workers began another strike in Spain's capital Madrid on Tuesday (May 7) to protest against the privatisation of the management of six hospitals which the government says is vital to rein in spending.

Although there have been several strikes since the plans were put forward by the regional government last October, this is the first of five planned walk-outs.

Thousands marched last December against the plans to place six hospitals and dozens of medical practices under private management as well as charging patients one euro for prescriptions.

There are more than 70,000 health care workers in Madrid taking part in the current strike action.

Madrid, a conservative bastion governed by the ruling People's Party, has put the management of the six public hospitals and the 27 public health centres out to tender.

A source in local government says the move will save them 20 percent of running costs over ten years.

The Madrid government is offering contracts worth a total of 4.6 billion euros over the next 10 years to run six hospitals in Madrid, the source said.

Spain's regions, which handle health care spending, are under intense pressure to slash costs. While Madrid has been one of the few to meet deficit goals, allowing the local authorities to return to debt markets while many of the other regions remain shut out, it has joined the push to introduce private companies in to the public system.

The savings are essential to keep Madrid's costs under control, the regional government says. Madrid spends more than 45 percent of its total budget on health care and has been given some 7 percent less to spend on health in 2013 than last year.

Health workers and doctors in the public healthcare sector however disagree.

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