Aina Salom is facing one of her toughest tasks since she took office as Balearic health minister on July 27, 1999: on December 12 she goes to Madrid to negotiate the funding for the health service when responsibility is handed over to the local government. Salom, who has a degree in pharmacy and is a specialist in gerontology and an expert in nutrition, said that the process of transferring the health service was almost complete. Negotiations have been taking place every month, sometimes every fortnight, but the last meeting was held in October, with only the question of finance pending. She said that the central government has “an historical debt“ with the Balearics in health matters and infrastructures promised by Insalud, the national health authority. Asked if she thought the transfer would be complete by next month, the minister said that up to now, the negotiations have been cordial. “What we are demanding is that the central government should take into account that we are an autonomous community which historically has suffered a major lack of aid in health material.” She added that this had been accepted at a committee level. Negotiations were broken off in October, she believes, because more than one ministry is involved. Agreement had already been reached with the central health ministry, now it was time to negotiate with the tax ministry. “If Hacienda puts up the money, there will be no problems,” she says. But, she added, “everybody has been able to see that Hacienda does not have the money for the transfer.” She explained that the government had been forced to introduce the new four pesetas a litre tax on petrol to raise funds to finance the autonomous communities. However, she is optimistic about the results of the talks on Wednesday. “If the effective cost - about 30'000 million pesetas - is respected, and the previsions in infrastructures are respected, we will reach an agreement.” So far, Salom said, her ministry is fulfilling the objectives it set out at the start of the legislature. One of the biggest challenges is the refurbishment of the Psychiatric Hospital, where an emergency ward has now been opened and a ward for geriatrics is also due to open early next year.

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