Last Thursday we were informed about the Supreme Court’s (SC) ruling number 952/2021’s regarding reversions and the adherence to the 2012 Budgetary Stability Organic Law and that the fact that it, without a doubt, affects the case started by the Valencian regional government for the internalization of the management of the University hospital of Torrevieja.
But allow me to share my thoughts on the aim of this case, because I think that it is so important that it goes beyond the specific examples of La Ribera Hospital, that of Torrevieja or the healthcare concessions. It marks a before and an after in the Spanish economic system and in the concessional model in any sector, and creates what, from now on, we are going to call “the Ribera Salud doctrine”.
And what does this doctine, that has set the standard with the Supreme Court’s ruling, consist of? I have summarized it for you into some key points which are included in the Supreme Court judges’ document.
- The Ribera doctrine has managed to set a limit regarding economic populism in Spain. From now on, governments cannot make arbitrary decisions without opening an administrative record which includes the strict economic and budgetary impact and is backed up with data. With this ruling, we have made sure that in the future decisions of an ideological nature are not made, without explaining and justifying the economic implications of that decision to citizens, as well as how their internalization proposal will affect the quality of services, in a transparent way.
- This Supreme Court ruling voids the previous ruling from the Valencian Community’s High Court of Justice (TSJCV), which stated that a government could make unilateral decisions, without any type of study or analysis of the impact of these decisions. With the Supreme Court case, this ruling is now void, something very extraordinary in the Spanish legal system and very very significant for the concessional sector in general.
- And I’d like to add something else. The Supreme Court’s ruling states that PRIOR to making a decision and PRIOR to any communication regarding the internalization of a service (the end of a concession), the administration has to compile a comprehensive and substantiated file, which includes the evaluation of the economic and budgetary impact of this decision. BEFORE MAKING A DECISION.
From my point of view, it’s a historic ruling, which marks a before and after in terms of the guarantees of a democratic state, opting for the legal safety of concessionaire companies and guaranteeing the strictness and seriousness of the government when making decisions that affect any public service that citizens receive.
I feel proud for having taken this issue to the Supreme Court and for having managed to void the ruling of the Valencian High Court, which endorsed arbitrariness in governmental decision making, when it affects a public service. It has always seemed bad judgement to us at Ribera and now the Supreme Court has shown that we are right by voiding it.
Today Spain is a safer country, from a legal point of view, and a limit has been set regarding economic populism. And I am happy to have contributed to a stricter, more serious and more objective scenario than that which existed previously. In my opinion, it is not acceptable that a decision on the scale of the reversion of the administrative concession is justified by appealing to a government agreement, whether it be the Botánic agreement or any other, and regardless of which parties form it. Governing for all citizens is a responsibility which should be carried out with seriousness, objectivity and strict criteria and, above all, by justifying decisions with reports and data, decisions that affect so many families and, in this case, thousands of patients and healthcare professionals. What is more, this is during a pandemic and healthcare crisis.
Furthermore, we are asking for European funds to get out of a very severe crisis and it is not logical or reasonable to ask Europe for funds on the one hand and on the other hand to ignore the saving, in the case of Torrevieja hospital, for example, estimated by the region’s Court of Auditors to be 45 million euros.
I also want to place value on the social contribution of the Ribera group. We don’t want medals, but one thing is for sure, thanks to this ruling, that we have taken to the highest body within our judiciary, we have prevented other companies that manage public services from going through what we went through. The concept of company freedom, institutional loyalty between administration and a concession, respect and legal safety is essential, and even more so in a country in which public private collaboration is a reality in many sectors. And I’m talking about infrastructure, energy, water, care homes, education, MOTs and, of course, healthcare, since healthcare agreements exist in many Spanish regions.
I’m aware that we have been like David facing Goliath in this legal battle and, for that reason, I feel especially happy that the whole organization has defended affected patients and professionals, as well as our providers, subcontracted services, collaborators and, ultimately, all those who believe and appreciate that loyal, sincere and quality collaboration is also in the citizens’ interests. We have, I reiterate, simply defended the safeguards of the rule of law.
Lastly, I want to say that we trust that the contribution of the “Ribera Salud doctrine” to a great nation such as Spain allows us, and future generations, to enjoy a freer and safer country to invest in, create employment, generate opportunities and offer quality services to citizens. A country in which the ideology doesn’t put limits on freedom, in which attitudes and decisions that attack sectors such as subsidized schools, care homes, pharmacies or the healthcare sector disappear.
We trust, and we have never stopped trusting, in goodwill, dialogue and loyalty to find the best solution together with the administration, and to keep guaranteeing a responsible health model and the best public healthcare service for patients in the areas that we manage.
This is, and always has been, our vocation.