LUIS ANTONIO RAMÍREZ PINEDA

Mexico 2021 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

ISSSTE believes Mexico must continue to invest more in research, health, human capital, equipment, and infrastructure so its healthcare system can better cope with future crises.

Luis Antonio Ramírez Pineda
BIOGRAPHY

Luis Antonio Ramírez Pineda is the Director General of ISSSTE. He has overseen a wide array of public sector roles throughout his career. He has a degree in economy from ITAM and a masters in social and public policy from London School of Economics. He previously participated in the international meeting for economists organized by the Cuban government.

What were the most important achievements of ISSSTE in 2020?

Our greatest achievement was to ensure COVID-19 patients had access to healthcare. We reported the actions that were being carried out in every state, and we brought this information together to create a nationwide overview. This meant that the situation across the whole country was made available: how many beds, ventilators, and so on. In addition, the greatest innovation was that all of the federal government's health services worked in coordination in order to ensure everyone had access to the institutions. This gave us greater control during the pandemic. The president himself instructed the Ministry of Defense to support us with facilities that had to be set up, as was the case in Mexico City. In some states, we also had hospitals ready to open under the PPP scheme. The Ministry of National Defense ran the hospital in Tepic, and we ran Tláhuac Hospital with the aid of the Cuban government. Cuban medical specialists were hired because the pandemic made it clear that Mexico was short. In addition, we coordinated teams to organize the rollout of the vaccine.

Previously, ISSSTE was investing in technology in order to make use of the information generated in the institution. What exactly have you been investing in?

We have several specialties. We treat diseases we call orphan diseases because their origin is not clear. We have even formed agreements with pharmaceutical companies and laboratories to follow up on the treatment of these patients. We aim to give our physicians greater research and development opportunities, greater access to information and technology, and more agreements with the private sector. All of this was interrupted by the pandemic, but it is to be resumed. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a country's ability to cope with a virus like this. It is possible that a different virus may emerge in the future, and we must be prepared. For this reason, governments and countries must recognize the need to invest more in research, health, human capital, equipment, and infrastructure. In Mexico, we must invest in training the coming generations in terms of technology, equipment, opening up spaces in schools and hospitals, hiring more personnel, and addressing mental health, which is the common denominator. In short, we must commit to prevention as one of the cornerstones of this administration. We must stop being a country that treats and become a country that prevents. We must teach the new generations to take better care of themselves so that they fall ill less through good nutrition, exercise, and healthy living. The adult population mainly has illnesses derived from being overweight. We also intend to decentralize research so that it can be carried out throughout Mexico and young people can thrive without having to leave their states. This is all to be carried out when we have the necessary funds, higher involvement in laboratories and pharmaceutical companies, and more people interested in research.

Has ISSSTE set aside a budget for investment in technology in 2021?

COVID-19 has swallowed up a large part of our budget. We dedicated all medical units for the pandemic, and we could not afford to treat non-COVID patients, which has been a problem. ISSSTE stopped investing in infrastructure a long time ago, and today we have no choice but to invest in the expansion and improvement of healthcare facilities. Above all, we have to make sure that the facilities are fully staffed. We are keen to invest in equipment, but this is not the year, as it is necessary to invest in the right facilities in order to buy equipment, and we are still very much dealing with COVID-19.