When we celebrated the start of a new decade a little over three months ago, no one could have imagined that the 21st-century’s first pandemic was knocking on the door. It was a moment when we all wished each other health and happiness for the coming year. Health, what a beautiful word. Today we’re fighting against an enemy that is both invisible and brutal, evidenced by the deaths of tens of thousands worldwide.
Our society has once again risen to the occasion. I believe that the people across Spain and in our Community of Valencia have given the very best of themselves. The responsibility, unity, generosity, solidarity and spirit of sacrifice of each and every one of us during this crisis and lockdown is far beyond what we could have imagined just a month ago.
As the head of a healthcare group, Ribera Salud, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the front line of our defence. I’ve been honoured to lead an extraordinary team of professionals (physicians, nurses, assistants, technicians, administrators, guards, maintenance staff, cleaners and more) in Galicia, Madrid, Extremadura and the Community of Valencia, who have served as an incredible example of what this extraordinary profession is all about with dedication, passion, professionalism and efficiency. They have once again proved that we are an organisation of people who take care of people. And I would like to express my deep pride and appreciation for them all.
María José, one of the amazing cleaners at our hospitals, assured us the other day that she is working “more and better than ever, because this is also my hospital and I want to help put an end to this situation”. And Cuca, an administrator at the cancer outpatient centre, told us that she didn’t want to take time off because “we’re a big family and our patients need us right now”. Emergency physician Ángel said he felt appreciated by the citizens because, “they don’t discriminate professionals by the type of hospital in which they work, despite the efforts of some politicians”. They insist they’re not special, but their values are an example for us all. There you have it.
I would also like to thank the overwhelming demonstrations of kindness and solidarity from individuals, groups and companies who are helping to make this situation more bearable with their donations and displays of support for professionals. And, of course, the security forces for their impressive public service efforts, whatever the job they are assigned. We also try to stay in close contact with both local and regional institutions to keep them up to date with the evolution of the crisis. Because information and transparency are the cornerstones of teamwork.
Now is the time to start looking to the future and prepare to face a new reality. The damage this pandemic will have on public services, social habits, and the economy will be severe. And once again, how long it takes to get through it is up to us. We need to put an end to divisive debates and to encourage all those things that unite us. This pandemic knows no borders, social classes, or political ideologies. And questioning globalisation and advocating for archaic nationalism is misguided, because the virus has also taught us that this fight requires a global response.
It is tempting to offer simple, populist responses to complex scenarios, but that would be wrong. When it comes to healthcare, I hear confrontational messages about public vs, private, when the response to the crisis would have been a complete disaster without the collaboration between both sectors. Simply impossible.
When it comes to the economy, I hear criticism of people like Amancio Ortega and Juan Roig, when they’ve served as examples of commitment and generosity and stand as true social leaders. Meanwhile, in politics, different leaders make decisions based on what they think will best serve their position in the short term.
And that’s not what the virus is about. It’s about changing our priorities and social values. About seeking consensus and compromise, joining forces. About generosity, listening, being thankful. Ultimately, it’s a lesson in humility. Our political leaders have the opportunity to take on this challenge with all the power and vision of the State. I don’t know if they will. But I would ask them to keep in mind the elderly who have died in nursing homes when they make their decisions, because they were not given the priority care they deserved. And the overwhelming number of professionals infected because the government failed to provide enough PPE. Professionals who went to work every day, despite their fears, to fight for all of us. Which is why I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team at the Ribera Salud purchasing department for their dedication and efficiency in helping to prevent the spread of the virus among our professionals.
Let’s hope that all those responsible for moving our nation forward will live up to the example set by the country’s citizens.
(This article was published in the newspaper Levante-EMV on 7th April 2020)