Following the formal decision to terminate the contract of Ribera Salud as managers of the Torrevieja Health Authority in October 2021, the major ‘unknown’ is what will happen with the pending investments in the health area.

On July 9, the Torrevieja Salud Company presented an investment plan valued at 40 million euros, which included, among other things, the construction of two health centres in Orihuela Costa and Guardamar.

That plan was to be applied during the period between 2021 and 2016, in the event that the concessionaire was granted an extension to it’s management, something that for the moment will not happen. But what then happens will happen to those proposed investments?

It should now be the case that the Ministry of Health constructs them within their ordinary budgets but is that really likely to happen?

Following Tuesday’s announcement of the contract’s termination, Health Minister Ana Barceló met with the PP mayors of the municipalities to be affected, where, as one, they all demanded that the promised investment of 40 million euro still be carried out.

The minister said that there is a lot of disparity with that investment plan, although hinting that some of the investments still had to be made during the current concession period; that is, until 2021, but she would not reveal which ones.

She said that Health has now commissioned an audit to find out what state the entire health authority adding that, according to the specifications of the current contract, any investments made by the concessionaire must be agreed upon and previously authorised by the Ministry of Health, something that was not done in the case of the two proposed new health centres.

Meeting between mayors and minister
Meeting between mayors and minister

The mayor of Torrevieja, Eduardo Dolón said that he has been pointing out since the beginning of the year that the city requires significant investments in health. This was stated to Ximo Puig in January at the meeting they held in Valencia.

Dolón called for improvements in health care for the city, mostly for the Hospital, such as new equipment, and the expansion and improvements of the building. But in the city he also urged a comprehensive reform of the La Loma Health Centre (the oldest in Torrevieja), an expansion of the Acequión health centre (Addictive Behaviour Unit – UCA) and improvements in the rest of the Torrevieja health centres. He also pointed out that Ribera Salud had an investment plan for the coming years budgeted at 20 million euros.

In the case of Orihuela, the mayor, Emilio Bascuñana, has been demanding for years the construction of a second health centre on the coast.  He complained that no response has been received to any of his correspondence sent to the Ministry requesting said facilities. “It doesn’t matter to me whether the concessionaire or the department carries out the work,” he said.

In January, Ribera Salud committed to the construction of the new health centre with an investment of six million euros. In July, Bascuñana, the councillor of Health and representatives of the concessionaire visited the plot that the City Council allocated for the construction of the second health centre. He reiterated that it was not a matter of opportunism. “I have asked the Ministry but still await an answer. The concessionaire has told me that if they retain the management contract, they will build the health centre.  I ask the same of the Ministry,” he said.

On the other side of the political spectrum is the PSOE bloc. The mayor of Guardamar del Segura, José Luis Sáez, has described his meeting with the minister as “very positive”. Sáez criticised the concessionaire for not having invested in a second Guardamar centre. “Ribera had an ambitious project, but in recent years they have not done anything,” he said. He also agreed Barceló stating that there must be an authority wide review. However, he added that “we will have to be vigilant” in reference to the actions carried out in the future by the Department.

In Rojales, another of the main municipalities in health area 22, its mayor, Antonio Pérez, also said that he is satisfied. He supports public management but at the same time he emphasised the need to be “vigilant” so that the service is either equal or better in the future. “We will criticise or praise the achievements from 2021 [the year that public management begins],” he pointed out. In terms of investment, he said that the rehabilitation centre, whose expenses in terms of costs are now borne by the council, must be paid by the Ministry.

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