MADRID (AP) -- Thousands of Spanish medical workers and residents are marching through downtown Madrid to protest against government budget cuts and plans to partly privatize their cherished national health service.

The demonstration is the latest of several, described as a "white tide" because of the color of the medical scrubs many protesters wear.

The protesters walked Monday behind a large banner saying, "Healthcare is not to be sold, it's to be defended."

Healthcare and education are currently administered by Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions rather than the central government. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 large public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers.

The Spanish government argues the sell-offs and cuts are needed to secure health services during a deep recession.

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