SETTING STANDARDS

Ecuador 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Grupo Conclina owns the first and one of the biggest hospitals in Ecuador. It has a strong CSR program and collaborates with the public sector to establish a robust healthcare system.

Javier Contreras Cevallos
BIOGRAPHY
Javier Contreras Cevallos was appointed CEO of Grupo Conclina in April 2015, the holding of Hospital Metropolitano, Humana prepaid medicine, and Metrored. He entered the healthcare industry in 2011, first at Hospital Metropolitano, and later at Hospital Punta Pacifica in Panama. Prior to this, Cevallos held various executive positions in the consumer goods industry, first at L’Oréal Paris and later at Kraft Foods. He is an electronic system engineer with a degree from ITESM Monterrey and an MBA from Universidad de Belgrano, Buenos Aires. In parallel with his healthcare career, he did an executive program of healthcare management at Harvard Business School and furthermore obtained a master’s decree in digital marketing from EUDE Business School.

How have you positioned your hospital group within Ecuador's healthcare landscape?

We are one of the largest hospitals in the private sector in Ecuador. At the time of our establishment, there were mostly smaller clinics in the country. When we opened, we attracted many healthcare professionals who studied abroad and wanted to utilize their experience in a large-scale hospital. This led to a scaling up of other healthcare facilities as well, so in that sense we were pioneers in improving the standards. As the first hospital in Ecuador, we have JCI accreditation and are ranked among the 25 best hospitals in Latin America by America Economia. Still, we keep working on improving our standards—being the best in Ecuador is not enough for us. To be able to provide people with the best level of care, we invested in a medical prepaid company called Humana, which functions like an insurance company and gives wider access to healthcare. The healthcare environment in Ecuador is not that patient friendly yet, with confusion over the role of the private and public sectors in terms of financing access. Our constitution states that it is the government's responsibility to guarantee access to healthcare, but sometimes the authorities state that part of this responsibility is on the private sector. Through the social security institutions, people make their obligatory payments to be eligible to healthcare. The rest of the population enjoys access provided by the Ministry of Health. The private sector does not get funding so we have to self-finance our operations.

How should the synergies between the public and private sectors be enhanced?

Three years ago, we had to close down our transplant facilities because our bills could not be paid due to the system in place. As a private institution, we should be able to invest in our healthcare, and provide it in return for sufficient financing. Shutting down our transplant unit was not good for the country; it is vital for public and private healthcare institutions to complement each other. At present, the way the public and private sectors interact puts financial pressure on the private healthcare providers, which has even led to bankruptcy of some. Fortunately, in 2012, we managed to open up our agreements with the social security institute to put a limitation on our exposure under that payment structure. There is a new law under review, Código Orgánico de la Salud, and although people need the best possible care, proper financing is just as important for sustainability of the sector. In the private healthcare sector, there will always be a corporate view, which means we cannot accept all patients for free. We have a strong CSR program in place and see around 9,000 patients for medical consultations at almost no cost, in addition to 650 complex surgeries for those who cannot afford it. It is our vision to provide affordable care while maintaining operations as an enterprise. The Ministry of Health should take care of the rest, one way or another. There is a great opportunity to improve healthcare, and we are pleased to collaborate with the ministry and other healthcare facilities to make this happen.

What are the ambitions for the coming year?

We would like to further advance in tertiary and specialize care, as we have the expertise in-house. In the short and mid term, the road ahead is fairly challenging, though in the long term, we can achieve our goals for Grupo Conclina, while also moving toward a better healthcare environment in general. The public sector is focusing on preventive healthcare, as it should, though it is diverting some of its responsibilities to us. As a listed company with 2,000 shareholders, we have to maintain an enterprising perspective and be rational. The general occupation in the private sector is 65%, so there is unused capacity that should be allocated for the greater good.