Spain’s health minister Salvador Illa and health experts meet to rethink post-COVID-19 healthcare


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The Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, has expressed concerns about the epidemiological situation in Spain. He was speaking during a debate at the forum Rethinking Spanish Healthcare. A new healthcare for a new normal, organized by EL PAÍS and Roche Farma to explore much-needed changes to the healthcare system after the pandemic. The event was streamed on the EL PAÍS website.

Joining the minister were: the President of the regional government of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara; the president of the Region of Murcia, Fernando López Miras; and the Spanish government’s Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, Carme Artigas. The event was opened by Stefanos Tsamousis, general manager of Roche Farma España, and Javier Moreno, editor-in-chief of EL PAÍS.

The event brought together health professionals, companies in the sector and institutions to discuss and explore a range of topics including regional healthcare management, the keys to care management, the experience lived by patients, and the importance of innovation and digitization in the response to future crises and for maintaining quality within a sustainable system.

Addressing the forum, Minister Salvador Illa advocated the need to bolster the Spanish health system, especially with regard to mechanisms that would further foster coordination between the wide range of actors in Spanish healthcare. "The big lesson from this health crisis is that the entire national health system needs to be strengthened."

Illa pointed out that "the situation with regard to the pandemic in Spain is very worrying." “The objective is to keep the pandemic under control until there is a vaccine or therapy," said the minister, who added: "We have to learn to live with the virus."

The consensus among health experts and specialists who took part in the various debates held over the course of the morning was that healthcare needs more science and less partisanship.

Regional government presidents Guillermo Fernández Vara and Fernando López Miras gave the much-needed angle from outside the capital. “Medicine is based on the relationship of trust between patient and doctor, or the system. But things have broken down, because lots of people just can’t understand that we can’t hammer out agreements with each other,” said Fernández Vara. López Miras, meanwhile, said that we still have yet to learn that “at times of crisis we must be guided by scientific criteria and expert judgment.” 

The forum ended with a series of panel discussions, during which health officials shared first-hand accounts and looked at the shortcomings and errors in the management of the health system, as well as the lessons they have learned from the pandemic.

Participants from the sector included: the director of Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic, ​​Josep Mª Campistol; Federico Plaza, Director of Corporate Affairsat Roche Farma; Marta Villanueva, director general of the Foundation Institute for the Development and Integration of Health (IDIS); representatives of health sector associations, such as José Polo García, Chair of the Spanish Association for Primary Care Physicians (Semergen); Florentino Fernández Raya, Chair of the General Nursing Council; Jordi Nicolás, deputy Chair of the Spanish Association of Hospital Pharmacy (SEFH); and Álvaro Rodríguez Lescure, Chair of the Spanish Association of Medical Oncology (SEOM).

Speaking on behalf of patients were Pedro Carrascal, director of Multiple Sclerosis Spain (EME) and president of the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform (EMSP), and Santiago Moreno, head of the Infectious Diseases Service at Ramón y Cajal University Hospital and COVID-19 patient.

The forum also featured the participation of EL PAÍS journalists Berna González Harbor, Carlos de Vega, Milagros Pérez Oliva and Ana Fuentes.

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