I didn’t think that I would be devoting any more lines in this blog to the Ribera Health Department, the past is in the past. But the Works Council press conference last Tuesday brought a feeling of déjà vu. Listening to them speak, the language they used, the deplorable state of the centre and the dire consequences of the reversal for professionals, was like returning to the start of 2018. That moment when a comprehensive audit, entrusted to an independent organisation, warned of exactly the same problems that the trade unions were reporting last week. A report which was, without doubt, sent to that very council, the Health Department and the same president of the Generalitat but… which fell on deaf ears.
The problems which now exist relating to incentive payments to professionals, internal promotion, transfers and staff development, were all predicted. Furthermore, it is difficult for me to understand how some people did not have the ability to foresee the damage, it was clear that the incorporation of staff in public administration would be difficult, -(there are still a number of related legal proceedings pending)-, that so many La Ribera workers’ privileges, with regard to their fellow public healthcare workers, would certainly not be adopted. Yes. Privileges.
As the person responsible for management during Alzira Hospital’s best stage, I have always stated that we are only human, we made some mistakes and undoubtedly we could have done some things much better. But what I am tremendously proud of is having done everything possible to provide the best healthcare for the public, as well as the best working conditions for professionals. I repeat, healthcare is a sector where people work for people.
That is why collective agreements adopted by Hospital de La Ribera during Ribera Salud´s management were welcomed by ‘all’ trade unions. Because 95% of the workforce had a permanent contract, a real possibility of internal promotion and guaranteed training opportunities. Because whilst working for the concessionaire, Hospital de La Ribera employees were paid between 2% and 6% more than their colleagues in other public hospitals with an incentive system which was pioneering in Spain. Because more than 600,000 euros was invested in the courses they required and they had access to family friendly agreements which do not exist in Public Administration, where neither has it been possible to keep the advantageous terms of the Equality Plan.
When management depended on the concessionaire, the well-being of our workers was always as important to us as that of the public. As a result, whilst being concession employees, they identified being happy in their work which was reflected in satisfaction surveys. Staff were not missing work, neither were there many sick days as a result of harassment or anxiety; something that unfortunately has been happening too frequently in the last 15 months. In fact, absenteeism has doubled from 2.7% to 5.4% in just one year!
“We are the best health professionals in the Community of Valencia”, said a union representative during the press conference. “The Health Department has been impressed by our training,”, boasted another. “We have spent 20 years working and obtaining spectacular healthcare results,”, pointed out a third, with a fourth stating, “Previously the company kept us updated on everything, now we don’t even receive a response to our emails.” It truly moves me to hear them say this, because they hardly mentioned the value of the previous concessionaire’s management as an essential part of these great achievements; I don’t mind recognising that this successful model’s leading figures were professionals from throughout the La Ribera Health Department.
Brave professionals, untiring workers, who were anxious to learn and to provide the public with the best and most advanced healthcare, always ready to innovate, advance and stay one step ahead of any other hospital in Spain. With pride in their work and a feeling of belonging, this large group of people became the best healthcare platform that any health department could wish for. A job well done is paid with money, but no one can pay the satisfaction that those of us who formed part of that project all felt when we experienced those results at first hand, through patients’ voices and the way they talked about their hospital and their physicians.
Now the unions recognise that they have “endured” the last 15 months, that no one tells them anything and that rights have been lost. Yes, physicians are leaving. But nursing staff, porters and administrative staff are also leaving because “they see no possibility of internal promotion.” They assured us that this wouldn’t happen. But it is… Someone should sit up and take notice, because this did not happen with the concessionaire company and, so that my opinion can remain on public record: unless someone intervenes, this is just the start of the disaster, the first step has to be to recognise the mistake and the second to reverse it.