The excellence of medicine in Spain

This is the attractive title of a book annually published by “Last Word” –Personajes de España collection-, where I was honored to participate together with important figures of healthcare sector. I’m really pleased with the interview approach, both private and professional aspects were discussed, and I think it gets the best out of the interviewees. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a different interview and I’m very satisfied of the final result. Here below you’ll find the translation. I hope you like it!.

Not long ago, a well-known sports brand brought out a slogan that said: “Impossible is Nothing”. Well Alberto de Rosa could have starred in that campaign. In 1999, this economist from Valencia showed that a Spanish public hospital could be managed by a private company. That pioneering experience was a great success, and this is demonstrated by the the fact that today the group he manages, Ribera Salud Group, has six public hospitals: five in the Community of Valencia and one in the Community of Madrid. He is an ardent defender of the Spanish health care model and its values, and never tires of repeating that private management not only allows a better use of resources, but also increases the quality of service.

What is the first thing you learn when you manage a hospital?

The first thing you learn, and its almost compulsory to learn it on your first day, is that the patient is the most important, over health care management, over managers, over doctors. The patient is above everything, we dedicate ourselves to produce something that is basic, and that is people’s health.
When we speak about the private management of public hospitals, the “Alzira Model” is always mentioned. What is the “Alzira Model”?

It’s a public-private collaboration model that was set up in 1999 in a hospital in an area of Valencia called Alzira, and from there its name. It was the first experience of public- private collaboration in the health care sector in Spain. And if someone asked me to define it, it is a model that combines the strength and the values of public health care, which is a universal, free and highest level health care, with the flexibility of a prívate initiative. And the result is a more agile, more flexible, more modern service.

You had the privilege of managing that first hospital in Alzira

With time you realise that the fact of being pioneers in a health care model that had no references, means it is a great responsibility, because you are setting out a path, in which you are making brave, innovative decisions with often nothing previous to refer to. This means that you are in the public eye and of course, especially at the beginning, you live under great pressure. But really the truth is it was a honour that will accompany me for the rest of my life.
Can you envisage a hospital in the same way as any other company?

Yes, without a doubt I would say that it can be envisaged as a private company. Of course, the hospital is a company and it must be understood as such. But not like any other private company. Because in a hospital you are managing the most prized assets human beings have, which is their health, and you must never forget that. So you must apply the elements of organisation and management of a private company without ever forgetting that we are serving people and we are seving them during a moment as important as is their loss of health.

And another great challenge are the human resources of that hospital. The workers go on to become public employees managed by a prívate initiative…

Of course its a great challenge and that was seen during the first few years, but we were also lucky with the human resources of the health sector: doctors, nurses and all the professionals that work in the health sector who have an extraordinary vocational component. This makes them place the patient as the most important thing in the department, but at the same time introducing business and management criteria. I believe that this has been the greatest challenge of our human resources policy and because of that we set up a salary system that was also very new, which incorporated a fixed part and a variable part, because for us you can’t treat equally those who are unequal, and you have to reward those who work the most and best.

And another of the keys of this model is that the patient does not have to know that the management is private…

That’s right, for the citizen there are no differences in the care they receive at our centres, as the care is public and universal just as in any other centre in the public health care network, and all the surveys on satisfaction carried out in the the hospitals we take part in show this. In them, a great majority, in fact 94% are unaware of the management model and a very high percentage of patients that come to these centres are satisfied with the care received; and more than 92% of patients value elements as normal and sensible as are proximity, sensitivity and waiting times, which are less that those of public hospital centres with a traditional management because of the flexibility that the private initiative allows.

In 2007, you became the CEO of Ribera Salud Group, do you miss the direct contact with the hospital’s problems?

The truth is yes, I miss them because I love the hospital environment, and that’s why I try to go to the hospitals as much as possible. Every week, I set myself the duty, not just out of obligation, but due to enthusiasm of personally visiting some of the hospitals we are involved in. I like to go incognito to the centres: request an appointment like any other person, wait my turn, assess the waiting time, the attention I receive. I try, to a certain extent to see the view any other citizen has of our hospitals.

What has made your group become the leader in health care in the administrative concessions?

We believe that our main value is that we were created and have grown at the same time as a health care model that has marked a precedent in management and we are proud to have contributed to this. Our company was created when the first project, which was that of Alzira hospital, and from then to today we have travelled through the entire history of the model. However the most important thing is that we have also known how to evolve and adapt to the model according to the times, the project and the needs of the public administrations. I believe that our group has accumulated a knowledge on the concessional model that we believe is the differential compared to other health care groups, as we are in two autonomous communities and we are the only ones that exclusively devote ourselves to the public-private collaboration model.

What aims do you set yourself for the future?

I believe the aim that we have for the future is that the Alzira model, supported by the Spanish brand, will have an international projection and the opportunity to also develop these values outside our borders. This is near and over the next few years we shall see it.

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