In recent weeks I haven’t wanted to pay too much attention to the media, because the public statements against public-private collaboration in healthcare give me intellectual anxiety. Who knows why some people still insist on a future model for healthcare management that is outdated, in my opinion. In order to give some clarity and try to reduce the uncertainty felt by all the staff who work for the Health Department at La Ribera, I spoke to them in a debate on freedom titled «Legal and Labour Aspects of the Bailout or Termination of Private-run Public Services». This was the speech I gave and which I want to share with everyone who reads my blog, and I thank you for your comments.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
After 17 years on a healthcare project as important as Alzira, it is fitting to organise a National Congress. But that isn’t the aim of this conference. A conference that I believe is very relevant, timely and necessary.
I would like to extend my thanks to the management at La Ribera, Javier Palau, to the head of Human Resources at the Ribera Salud Group, Salvador Sanchis, and to all of those who have helped organise this event. And of course, thanks goes to the speakers. I know that all of you made a big effort to be here. We wanted to bring together all the different perspectives on a topic that is currently very important, open to anyone who wanted to take part.
I’m not going to bore you with a long speech, but please allow me to tell you about three moments that were very important for me over the last 17 years. Three moments that have had an impact on my vision of how healthcare should be managed in the 21st century, and that have made me think about what we have been moving towards. Three moments that sum up the key players in this project: the Public, Healthcare professionals and the Organisation.
The first moment took place on 3 January 1999. The Minister of Health at the time was visiting the first in-patients, and I will never forget a women from Cullera who, while in the intensive care unit, thanked the Minister for the hospital’s existence. Her husband had suffered a massive heart attack, and just 3 days earlier he would had to have travelled over 50 km for aid. Remember that, at that time, there was no hospital in La Ribera. The incident made me think about the importance of bringing healthcare services to the population. And that’s why, thanks to the public-private partnership, more than 140 million euros have been invested in the region over the last 16 years, which is the largest investment in improving health services in any region in Valencia, except for the ‘La Fe’ project. And this investment was not only to build the hospital and add the latest technology such as MRI and CT scan equipment. We were also thinking about health centres. Both the new ones that have been built in Gavarda, Favara, Tous, Cullera and the large centre in Alzira, as well as the refurbishment work and new equipment added in every region. Because bringing services to the public is not just achieved through the hospital.
La Ribera has large-scale infrastructure and healthcare services. Radiotherapy, Neurosurgery and Cardiac Surgery are only available in large hospitals. Our integrated health centres with beds, radiology connected to the hospital, etc. are also the exception in the Valencia region. And some of the core indicators, such as waiting times, waiting lists etc. cannot be found elsewhere in the Valencian public health service, and I know that this is valued by citizens of La Ribera and shown in satisfaction surveys, as those of you know who are here today represented by the Patients Association already know.
The second moment is related to the numerous occasions over the years in which I have had the privilege of presenting the Alzira model on five continents, across multiple forums and in the top universities in the world. We have also had the honour of receiving delegations from over 80 different countries at Alzira. I will always remember a delegation from the European Union, which visited our Department over several days. Months later I had a meeting with the Spanish Minister of Health, who told me the conclusions the delegation had reached about the visit. Those who attended found that we were a private company with a public soul. I have always said that this is the best definition that anyone has every given of the Ribera Salud group, and it made me think that the soul of the company comes from its staff. If they had reached this conclusion, it’s because all of our staff exude this «public soul», which is nothing more than a vocation for service, with a spirit of continued improvement, putting the public at the centre of our system.
The third moment refers to us. You all know that I was the manager of this hospital for its first 9 years. I worked side by side with you, the healthcare professionals who helped to get the project off the ground, with all the difficulties that starting such a big project entails: setting up a completely digitalised hospital, the first in Spain with electronic patient records and digital radiology, and fully integrating primary and hospital care. I would like to thank you once again for that.
The vast majority of you have come from direct management in the public system, and you have left your position because you wanted to develop your career in another model. Many of you had to decide whether to return to your position in direct management or not after three years, when the contract was up. And I remember a head of the medical service, he knows who I’m talking about, who decided to go back to his original hospital out of fear for the future of the project. One month later he rang and told me he wanted to come back to Alzira because he had forgotten what it meant to work with the same mentality and structures as 20 years ago. I asked for him to be readmitted and he’s still working with us today. This made me reflect on the importance of developing a model for people management that recognises talent, in which it is possible to have incentives linked to high-quality results, a professional career, self-management, internal promotions, and more.
Your work, at the service of Valencian public health for over 17 years, deserves all our respect and admiration. I say as much as a member of the public. And I know that the vast majority of patients in La Ribera share this sentiment.
This marks the official start of the conference that I’m sure will meet all of our expectations. Thank you very much.