His first day at work

Yesterday I visited Alzira to attend the presentation of the new director of the Health Department of La Ribera, Dr Javier Palau. It comes as no surprise that news of his appointment has been prominent in local and national communication media, because our way of understanding healthcare, the management model of Ribera Salud, continues to be the focal point of attention and the subject of study for the innovation, flexibility and best practices it provides to the public health system.

I could say a great many things about yesterday’s engagement. It was moving. An emotion that I reflected on during my speech and which corresponded to Javier himself, who dedicated some very nice words of thanks to the professionals with whom he has been working at La Fe University Hospital and those with whom he is about to start working at the Health Department of La Ribera. Words I would like to share with you in my blog.

Some time has elapsed from the departure of the previous director, Manuel Marín, until the new appointment, a time during which we have reached an agreement with the Ministry on the name of the new director as set out in the list of conditions. And we should feel very happy to have found the ideal person for these interesting times that we live in.

Dr Javier Palau is a family doctor, a haematologist, a Doctor in Medicine and his last position was as Medical Director of the major public hospital in the Community of Valencia, nothing less than La Fe University Hospital of Valencia.

With these speeches given on 1 March, we begin a new stage at La Ribera. Curiously enough, this is the same day on which I began my career in health, albeit 26 years ago! Good luck!

ALBERTO DE ROSA: Dear friends, allow me if you will to address myself to Javier, somebody I know well and with whom I’ve had the good fortune to share many conversations and meetings over many years. Javier, I should like to tell you that you are at the best Health Department in Spain. And it’s not just me saying this; it is confirmed in the Management Agreements of the Community of Valencia, and is further backed by all of the acknowledgements obtained over these years. Without delving any deeper, just last week we received the Best in Class award for the “Best Hospital in Spain”, with which I welcome you to the best Health Department in Spain. And to be the Best Health Department you need to have the leading professionals. Consequently, Javier, you have before you the finest professionals there are in our country and of whom I, in particular, feel extremely proud.

It’s true that this is a hospital and a Health Department that is the best in Spain not only for the healthcare it offers, but also because it performs miracles. I’m going to tell you why. Until Friday you were the Medical Director of La Fe University Hospital and when you said something, in all likelihood nobody questioned you. From now on you’re the director of the Health Department of La Ribera and I’m sure that whenever you say something, there will be people that think: “I don’t believe it”, “these figures can’t be right”, “take a look because I’m not sure”… You’ll see how there will be people that question you constantly.

We’re proud of what we do. We feel proud of belonging to the Ministry of Health, of forming part of all of the teams that make up the public healthcare network; we feel proud of defending public healthcare of quality. I’m sure that someone will have said to you: “Goodness me, what are you getting into?”. But I can tell you in the 16 years that we’ve been here, the path travelled has been no bed of roses.

I remember the beginnings with the unavoidable ‘running-in’ of what was the most technological hospital in Spain; when the integration of Primary Care took place, the economic crisis we have experienced in recent years. It really has been a long journey which, without a shadow of a doubt, has been worthwhile. And so I tell you to come with high hopes, that you come to fight for the people you have before you, and that you come with clear ideas. That you come to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and to ensure that this Department of Health remains the best in Spain.

There are people who think that being the director is as good as it gets, because they always imagine a pyramid where everybody is at the base and the person in charge sits atop. I would like to invite you to turn that pyramid upside down. On the top are all of the citizens, then the professionals, then middle management, the management team and finally you at the bottom. You’re at the bottom and, if you will permit me, I would like to give you some advice about this vision, one where the citizen is the most important, the citizen in Primary Care, the citizen at home, the citizen in the hospital, it’s the reason why and the reason for which we work here. Your job is to ensure that the citizens and our professionals undergo that experience, your mission is to provide the very best healthcare to the public using the best means possible, and the best professionals.

To conclude, I should like to say that you have my full support. I’ve been there, I know how difficult it is, I know the challenges you’re going to face. I am available for anything you need, and I speak on behalf of the Ribera Salud Group when I tell you that we are all at your disposal.

DR. JAVIER PALAU: First of all a very good day to you all and many thanks for the presentation, Alberto. For me, today has been an extremely important day because I have spent a long time working at La Fe. It was here that I did my internship, at the end of the 1980s. Some of those here are well aware of this because we have been colleagues and we have worked together since that time.

When I was given the option of coming here to work and holding the position as director and helping to ensure that this hospital continues to have the presence that it boasts internationally, I thought it was a huge challenge and one that excited me greatly.

It’s very true that it wasn’t difficult to say yes. I don’t think anybody that works here needs to be told how important it is, because they are working at an internationally recognised model. I have no doubt that everybody is aware of this. A little over a year ago I was in Sweden and in Stockholm visiting the works of the new Karolinska, which is a hospital that had been developed along the lines of a very similar model to the one we have here and which we are developing in the Community of Valencia. This really caught my attention.

In the healthcare context, it is vital to recognise the role of a hospital and of a department such as this one. It is very well known and has been for a long time in the different forums that acknowledge healthcare excellence.

I think that despite everything -even though I come from a hospital as large as La Fe and as new as La Fe and as lovely as La Fe- I believe we all know how well things are being performed in our environment, and above all at this hospital that has such close ties with the city.

It is an exciting challenge that is also recognised by the public. People are very happy with the way in which La Ribera works. The sensation, of which I’m aware having spoken to colleagues that have spent many years working here, is that from the standpoint of professionals there is also a special feeling of belonging and pride at working here.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a healthcare model that takes into consideration the global challenges of healthcare and it seems to me that it is an essential model in the health system. You only have to see how it operates and everything it has contributed to the world of healthcare, because many of the things that are happening and which are set to happen in the future would not be understood without the application of models such as the one we have here in this department.

My professional career has shown me that we all need to work alongside each other for something very simple, and that is to maintain the quality of healthcare. Because we owe everything to our patients. I would say that today, rather than patients we are talking about our citizens. This is  because when we talk about prevention matters, health education matters, and so forth, we are talking about people that don’t need to be sick.

Right now, I believe that this hospital and the department have important challenges ahead, such as the international accreditations and many other things that are being developed in a more specific way, such as the healthcare of chronic patients, domestic care of patients, and so on.

And so because of all this, I shall conclude by saying that this is an extremely exciting time for me personally, and I feel particularly motivated. I know full well that I will have the support of all professionals from the department, I’m convinced that this will be the case. And we all need to work together so that in the years ahead both patients and professionals can be proud of belonging to this hospital and to this department. Thank you.

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