Ahead of hugely important regional elections in Cataluna on December 21, the local Government of Ibiza has voted to retain the Catalan language as a requisite to work in its public Health service. Spoken for generations, Catalan is the official language of the island and a minimum knowledge of the dialect is required to work in its civil administrations. In recent months, the local press has been highlighting areas of traditional Catalan culture that sit uncomfortably with modern living and Ibiza’s perceived multi cultural society. In an effort to protect local jobs and ensure a high level of care to its citizens, Ibiza under many different governments in the past, has required all doctors and nurses to possess a working but not fluent level of the Catalan language.

There are many countries in the World, especially those who value their inherent culture, that require its public workforce to speak its native language. In my country Ireland, Irish is necessary to work in the civil service, even though English is the most commonly spoken language. So what Ibiza is asking as a precondition to work in its Health service, is not unusual, but with an election just around the corner, one gets the feeling much of this may be linked to a political agenda to undermine the Catalan culture in certain areas. While the Catalans in Ibiza may not be as radical as their cousins in Barcelona, fanning the flames of Catalan patriotism will rally even the most relaxed Catalan to the cause of its Nation.

Like any other Health service in the World, Ibiza is finding it difficult to recruit trained professionals to work in Hospitals. While the precondition of the Catalan language may be a factor, it is not the sole reason as there are many other issues like pay, conditions, consultants and an accommodation shortage that add to the problem of recruiting qualified staff. Right wing Governments have a poor record in Healthcare and social issues, something Spain, Britain and Ireland are experiencing under conservative pro business parties right now, with a wide gulf emerging between those at the top of society and those at the bottom. The local press in Ibiza has been quick to highlight the Catalan question as the determining factor headlining articles that make the Catalan culture look archaic in some way instead of focusing on the real issues.

Ibiza has only one public Hospital at Can Misses and its regarded as a well performing unit especially in emergency admittance with a high quality of care to its citizens. However, its limited in its facilities and operations with many of its more serious cases referred to Palma and Barcelona Hospitals. Funding, not staffing issues is where its perceived problems lie, pay the doctors and nurses well enough and the island will have no problem recruiting professional staff to work there. Recruiting low paid, non national workers with minimal qualifications is not the answer, the Catalan Language requisite ensures a certain level of education and adaptability is reached to be part of its health service. Not a bad idea in my opinion, as would adding the Spanish language as another qualifying criteria.

I do agree that Ibiza requires more Health care workers, who doesn’t, but to blame the Catalan language as the reason for the failings of the local health service is unbalanced reporting and hense, smells of a political or biased agenda at play. As a resident of Ibiza, I am very grateful to live and work in Spain where I pay my taxes, respect local culture and consider myself a guest of a proud nation that is experiencing cultural difficulties right now. Elected Government decides the rules and one has to abide by them. Lets hope that all voices are respected and protected while working to find a solution as together in diversity, there is beauty and strength.