Alberto de Rosa, English

The value of the local sphere

23 marzo, 2020 • By

It’s been one week since the government announced a state of alarm, and citizens and organisations are still struggling to adapt to these exceptional circumstances. We are all writing a line in the Story of managing this global pandemic, the first of the 21st century.

Every citizen plays their part in this situation: health professionals, pharmacists and researchers on front lines in the battle against the coronavirus; workers in basic services such as cleaning, transport, food and the security forces who help make sure that life doesn’t come to a complete halt. And our governments, each in their own area. The Central Government is trying to unify policies, collect daily information on the number of cases and give instructions and recommendations of a general nature, while regional governments, responsible for healthcare management in each territory, feed this chain of information, apply criteria coming from above and take the necessary decisions, transmitting them to the various healthcare management bodies.

I have no doubt that we’re all working along the same lines, towards maximum collaboration between institutions, with the belief that we will all win this battle together.

However, I believe that there is one player fundamental to this crisis, because of its importance as an agent of the health system and its closeness to citizens. I’m talking about city and town councils. In situations like this, the importance of municipal social services and their contact with the elderly and the most vulnerable groups at risk of exclusion, or the local police, essential to guaranteeing social isolation, is a reality that we should value at a time of maximum social tension, due to the circumstances we are facing and those that are still to come. 

And let’s not just think about the councils in big cities. The smaller the population, the more important the role of the local government due to its direct contact with citizens; they turn to it to raise doubts and concerns, and request services. These smaller municipalities often don’t have the possibility of using teleworking, which is why these public servants are also heroes during the crisis. 

At Ribera Salud we have always thought that one of our main missions as those responsible for our citizens’ healthcare is to work hand in hand with the community we serve. And to do so, there is no better formula than being fully integrated into the life of said community. We mutually support each other.

Regarding this, I am very proud as, right at the start of this health crisis, we launched an initiative to improve direct communication with local councils and to intensify coordination among all personnel. The heads of health departments managed by Ribera Salud have already held their first meetings with the mayors of all the municipalities in their areas via video conferencing. Councils as diverse as Torrevieja, Pilar de la Horadada, Orihuela, Elche, Aspe, Crevillente, Torrejón, Daganzo, and Ajalvir, among others, have participated in these coordination calls. And I would like to thank all the participating mayors for their commitment, enthusiasm and collaboration, as well as the enormous support they’ve given us over these past few days.

In these meetings, I can see four principles that I consider fundamental to healthcare management in the 21st century:

Communication between all the institutions, with the objective of always having an open channel for a quick response to an occurrence.

Transparency in explaining why decisions were made and receiving any suggestions that could help us improve and adapt to a constantly changing scenario.

Proximity, as local administrations and health departments have a higher degree of contact with citizens and are a very good source for attending to doubts and transmitting suggestions.

Coordination, because I think it is highly important that local police know the strategies of hospitals or how primary care is working first-hand, and that social services know they can receive training and information to do their job with maximum safety guarantees.

We’re all one. Each of Spain’s 8,131 city and town councils aims to work towards the general interest. For Ribera Salud, the importance of being integrated into the community where we serve goes beyond words. With these meetings we demonstrate the value of the local sphere in the global strategies of any institution or organisation through a very concrete action. Every link in the chain is important and we will continue to work along these lines. Now and forever.