She has first-hand knowledge of the Costa del Sol Hospital because she has worked there for years. In fact, until taking up her new post very recently, Luisa Lorenzo, who is qualified in Medicine and General Surgery, was the head of Healthcare Management. She has already drawn up a list of priorities, with a special focus on providing more space in a hospital which, she admits, is no longer big enough. The building is to be extended, but she is also trying to find interim solutions while the works are being carried out.
How do you feel about your new position?
I'm grateful to the head of the Andalusian Health Service and the regional Ministry of Health for placing their trust in me. I believe this will be a very difficult challenge, because there are some very important projects coming up, like the extension and the new HAR in Estepona, which I imagine we will also run. They are complicated, but I'm glad they are happening. Also, I am not tackling this on my own. Many people are supporting me and that makes me feel very proud, but it is also a great responsibility because I mustn't let them down.
What have you done in these first few days?
I have tried not to slow anything down, so that everything could continue as usual, but at the same time I need to understand what the most important problems are at the hospital. That's what I'm doing at present.
What are the most important things right now?
For me the most important of all is to unblock the extension. We have been waiting for it for ten years now. This hospital was designed for a certain size of population, but that has grown enormously. The hospital is at its physical limit. We are operating in the mornings and evenings, and holding consultations in the mornings and evenings, and we are still struggling to keep up. We have the shortest waiting lists in the whole of Andalucía, because the staff here are very committed, but it is absolutely essential to start to think about how we can expand our space.
What is the situation regarding the concession for the works at the moment?
Because it will cost more than 600,000 euros to reactivate the expansion project, I can't approve it on my own. It had to be approved by the board of administration, and that was done at a meeting last week. However, there is still another step to go, because the payment has to be handled by the Junta de Andalucía. Another important step is to examine the plans carefully, because the original project was designed a long time ago and in the meantime medicine has changed, the hospital has changed, and our needs are no longer the same. I'm going to sit down with the professionals here to draw up a sensible plan for the extension which best suits the needs of the hospital.
The hospital may have the lowest waiting lists, but the emergency department appears to be pushed to the limit.
The number of people admitted to hospital is more or less similar all through the year, maybe slightly lower in the summer, but the emergency department is much busier in the summer because as well as the usual population we have so many visitors. Normally we analyse the situation in July and August and take on extra staff to work in Emergencies in the summer. It suffers from the same problem as the operating theatres and consultations, though: it lacks space. The emergency department is too small for the number of patients who need the service.
What do you intend to do about that?
We are considering minor changes which would give us more space. I want the expansion works to begin as soon as possible, but you have to bear in mind that they will take time and we can't carry on as we are for much longer. That's why we are analysing ways of creating more space in the interim period.
Will that mean taking on more staff?
We take on more staff in Emergencies every year, as I said. Some departments do need more doctors, for example Traumatology. I think we have as many patients in that department as they do at the Virgen de la Victoria hospital in Malaga, and they have many more traumatologists. So in some departments, yes, we need to employ more staff.
The standard of work here has won the hospital numerous awards and certificates. What can be improved?
I think there are always ways to improve and I have noticed some organisational aspects where there is room for improvement.
You were pioneers in Spain with your sun protection campaign. Will that continue this year?
Yes, the campaign began in 2009 with Magdalena de Troya, who still runs it. I think it has been very interesting because it has been supported by professionals, raised awareness among the public and the institutions and, very importantly, town halls, hospitals and health centres have also become involved.
In his recent visit to the hospital, the Health delegate for Malaga province, Carlos Bautista, mentioned that the health agency may no longer be a public company and the hospital might be brought under the umbrella of the Andalusian Health Service.
It has been suggested, and my opinion is a bit divided about that. I believe this hospital works in a different way to the Andalusian Health Service, but I also understand that in terms of regulation and staff mobility it could be interesting. You have to remember, for example, that a professional from here who wants to move into a health service job can't do so. I understand the idea behind integration, but I would like to be able to retain the same commitment and values and for those to be taken up by the health service, because I really do believe we do things differently here. In any case, the integration seems logical because within one public health system we can't have different models, and there are three different models.
What other priorities have you set for yourself?
I'm in the process of meeting staff from all departments to find out what they need and can now start some new initiatives. For example, a working group to analyse how we can continue to reduce waiting lists. I have also discussed ways of carrying out more operations every day. I'm looking at the possibility of extending telemedicine, as well.
How would telemedicine benefit the Costa del Sol hospital?
It would mean fewer patients had to travel to the hospital and it would relieve the pressure on us. I have already talked to several people about extending it, because we already do some teleconsultations in the Dermatology and Cardiology departments, so the idea is to expand the reach of virtual consultations.