2017 Defensores de la Salud Award (an award that recognises the work of prestigious Spanish companies and institutions in the field of healthcare)

Last Friday, in Elche, we celebrated the seventh anniversary of the Hospital Universitario del Vinalopó with the handover of the Defensores de la Salud Awards, which this year have recognised the career of some great professionals: former socialist minister Julián García Vargas (Minister of Health and Consumer Affairs between 1986 and 1991) and the editorial team of La Verdad newspaper, represented by its former delegate, Gaspar Maciá Vicente. It was a very emotional event, at which an Honorary Mention was also given to Manuela Sepulcre Cano, the 100th baby to be born in the hospital and representative of all the families that have been part of the hospital’s history since it opened in June 2010. These are the two speeches I delivered before handing over the award to Julián García Vargas and, at the end of the event, when I addressed all the professionals working within the concession model in the Valencian Community.


“Good morning to you all. This year on the seventh anniversary of the Hospital Universitario del Vinalopó I have the opportunity to present the “2017 Defensor de la Salud” award to Julián García Vargas. Julián García Vargas was Minister of Health and Consumer Affairs between 1986 and 1991 and later Minister of Defence between 1991 and 1995. He therefore has first-hand experience of one of the most intense and productive stages in Spanish democratic history. JGV remains the longest-serving minister that the Spanish health service has ever had. And this, which says a lot about him, is possibly a good indicator of the survival of politicians in this important yet complex position.

During his tenure, he was able to implement the General Health Act, approved in 1986, when Ernest Lluch (who we all remember with great respect) was Minister. He promoted major initiatives targeted at maintaining a modern, quality, health service, according to the needs of the patient; outlining sweeping sanitary reforms to address the future of the system. Julián García Vargas was a pioneer in the debate on the need to reform the National Health System, which would later be initiated in other developed countries such as the USA, England or Holland.

From his position as head of the Ministry of Health, he promoted the “April Report” which, as you know, featured participation by more than 140 health experts to study the National Health System, and which served to lay the foundation for the future of healthcare in Spain. The findings of the report acknowledged the values of a system that provides care to its citizens under the principle of fairness, excellent medical training and quality of care, and it also warned about organizational, management and funding problems that could compromise the future of the system. Among the 64 recommendations that the group of experts proposed after more than a year’s work was the proposed separation of financing and provision of NHS services, based on our management model. To this day, the April Report remains a document of huge value and has not lost its relevance.

We consider ourselves heirs to that reflection… that spirit of change… that progress… that debate; where it was more important to analyse and agree than to impose visions that appear to give easy solutions to complex problems. I would also like to say, from a personal point of view, that I have always been a great admirer of Julián García Vargas. His in-depth knowledge of the problems affecting the sector (to which he remains associated), his accurate analysis and his correct advice have allowed me to improve my understanding of healthcare and the major challenges that lie ahead.

For this reason, it is an immense honour to be here to present this award and in particular I wish to thank him for having accepted this recognition as Defensor de la Salud by our organisation. In a world in which it is so complicated to have, and to keep, friends for many years, Julián García Vargas is, frankly, an exception. I assure you that I do not know anyone in the field of healthcare at national level who does not feel respect and admiration for his work, even though it has been a long time since he served as Minister.

In a country where it is difficult to recognize everyone, the fact that Julián García Vargas continues to be recognised 25 years later shows that besides being an excellent professional, he is, without a doubt, a great person. Thank you very much.”


“Dear colleagues, today is a happy day for me and I would like to think that it is also a happy day for you. We are celebrating the 7th anniversary of one of the finest hospitals and health departments of the Valencian Community, Spain and the world. This is not just my opinion but also that of our patients and, in the latest management report from the Ministry of Health, Vinalopó has been ranked as the best Department in the Valencian Community in terms of the care received.

The statement is supported by the Audit Office of the Generalitat Valenciana, which has acknowledged that our way of doing things represents a saving of 25% for the Public Administration. With shorter waiting lists, greater investment per citizen, greater user satisfaction, and with higher quality of care. Nothing more and nothing less. The conclusions of the first public audit carried out by the Government of the Generalitat could not be any clearer in respect of your good work and you should feel proud of this. You have also received recognition from the most prestigious healthcare accreditation in the world, the Joint Commission, which has placed the department of Vinalopó among the international elite and, God willing, we will be joined by our sister hospital of Torrevieja within a few days. And above all, the position of Vinalop Hospital is demonstrated by you, the professionals, every day, with your effort, affection and dedication.

All of us here believe in a sustainable health model, in its importance and in its social responsibility and that is why we…, you are passionate about everything you do. Throughout today we have lived and breathed that passion for what we do and I believe that we are able to transmit that passion to the people and institutions that accompany us and that have helped to make healthcare greater and more important.

As I said, I think it’s a happy and satisfying day, very satisfying. Thanks to those political and social representatives who wanted to be here. And to those who have not wanted to join us on this anniversary, I should tell them that they don’t know what they’re missing. We must feel proud of what we have achieved together, because throughout history, great achievements have always been accompanied by great difficulties. This is what usually happens when we are innovative. You are all writing pages in the annals of international healthcare, developing a management model that is visited and recognized worldwide, although unfortunately it may be questioned by some who seem more concerned that nothing changes and that everything remains the same.

We cannot give up. We have to continue working for and on behalf of our patients, offering them the public healthcare we believe they deserve. A more efficient, more accessible public health system with shorter waiting lists, with the latest technology, with innovative health programmes based on predictive models that allow us to customize and adapt the treatment to the real needs of society. One must fight for what one wants, and this must be done from the personal conviction and with the tenacity of one who believes in looking for something that improves the well-being of everybody. We must be proud, avoid sectarian positions and focus on our citizens, to whom we owe ourselves. That is our only goal, because only in this way can we ensure that the management model of Ribera Salud and its professionals continue to receive maximum acclaim, and for this we need brave and committed professionals.

You are doing an exceptional job, you form part of the cutting edge of healthcare worldwide, and I encourage you to continue along the same path. You have accumulated more than 112,000 surgical interventions, dealt with 600,000 A&E cases and 10,900 births since the opening in June 2010. You have benchmark specialties and leading technology, such as the first public PET-CT in the province of Alicante. You offer reduced waiting times for surgery and consultations, well below the average of the Valencian Community, and you have achieved the most prestigious quality accreditation in the health field, the Joint Commission International. You are the first public hospital in the Valencian Community and the third in Spain to achieve this recognition.

For all this, you should feel very proud to work in the Health Department of Vinalopó. It is your efforts that have placed us at the pinnacle, have made our work worthwhile and have led us to represent an example of good work for many other health organizations. Many congratulations to all of you.”

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