Antonio Luis Cansino. / JOSELE

'The Costa del Sol hospital extension will be a lovely 30th birthday present'

The difficulties in finding affordable housing in Marbella also apply to hospital workers: "Our staff have to have somewhere to live."

JOAQUINA DUEÑAS MARBELLA.

Antonio Luis Cansino has been the manager of the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella since the beginning of this year, and his satisfaction is obvious as he looks out of his office window at the comings and goings of workers and machines building the long-awaited extension to the site. He says he is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead, now that there is something else to focus on in the field of healthcare in Marbella, apart from the coronavirus pandemic.

–How did you feel when you were appointed as manager of the Costa del Sol hospital?

–I see it as a privilege and an honour, and I am proud of what is being done at this hospital. I have been lucky enough to be given a challenge and a project to manage which we are all hugely excited about. This is a historic moment, with the hospital's integration into the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) and the new management. We are really looking forward to the extension being completed because Marbella and the nearby area have been waiting such a long time for it to happen. And of course we also have the challenge ahead of the new Estepona hospital, which opened a year ago in the midst of the pandemic.

DELAYS"We are about to put an action plan into effect to reduce the waiting times for operations"UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL"Having students motivates the professionals and the patients benefit from that"

–After more than ten years waiting for work on the extension to start again, how is the schedule going?

–Some phases are always faster than others, but we are on schedule. We have already planned the first phase, which is to move the administrative departments to the new building. That will be in a few months from now, and it will mean that the Emergency department can be expanded. The next phase will be to move the consulting rooms, and that will also mean this building can be extended and other changes can be made. We are preparing to meet all our deadlines in 2023.

–How are the staff feeling?

–They are exceptional. They are professionals who are always pushing for more, more resources, more operating theatres, more measures, because they want to provide the best possible service for the public. They pressure me the whole time, but it is because they want to be able to give more, to have more consulting rooms, to provide better environments for patients, and that is a challenge I want to meet. They are all very excited about this expansion and about the hospital in Estepona.

–Marbella is facing staff shortages in several sectors of the local economy because of the difficulties in finding affordable housing and travel problems. Is that also the case in the healthcare sector?

–Yes, it affects us as well. There is a particular situation on the Costa del Sol and we are working on resolving it. Our staff have to have somewhere to live. We are talking with the institutions about housing difficulties, but it is something that we all need to work on together to find a solution. There has been a shortage of doctors for a while and the same problem is starting to occur in nursing. It has been like that for several years, but the pandemic has made it worse. The good thing in Andalucía is that we have given permanent jobs to a lot of people who were on temporary contracts and have made efforts to keep our staff because it is hard to find replacements. Of course there are always needs that have to be met, but we are working within our possibilities. This year we haven't had a single vacancy for resident doctors.

–Patients seem particularly worried about the long waiting lists for consultations and operations.

–The population on the Costa del Sol has grown tremendously, and so has the number of tourists and visitors. That means greater demand for health care and this hospital has had to provide it, even though the population has practically tripled. We have carried out 11 per cent more operations, and seen 14 per cent more people in Outpatients. That doesn't mean our waiting list is ideal, but we are responding satisfactorily. We always have action and contingency plans to improve certain situations and at present we are about to put a plan into effect to improve the waiting lists for surgery.

The problem has been exacerbated because some people's treatment was delayed due to the pandemic so there is a backlog. But we are going to resolve that shortly. Also, when we have 11 more operating theatres and when the surgical block is ready, there will be a spectacular change to response times.

–Next year will mark 30 years since the hospital opened. The extension is going to be a really nice birthday present for patients and staff...

–It is, it's going to be a wonderful gift. But we also have something else to celebrate: we are going to become a university hospital, which we have been requesting for years. Ninety student medics a year pass through here. We have students from the faculty and physiotherapists, and we are a top-class teaching and research centre.

–What will becoming a university hospital mean?

–It will give the hospital the status it deserves in terms of its collaboration with the training of university students, not just residents and postgraduate training but also training and work experience beyond residencies. That increases the possibilities of studying and research. Also, having students motivates the professionals and improves their everyday work, and in the end that also means that the patients receive better treatment.

–What research is currently being carried out at the hospital?

–We have a research unit where professionals work outside their normal hours, and at the moment there are about 40 clinical tests being carried out. They are all at an advanced stage and most will be coming to an end soon. With 800,000 euros of funding, this hospital is at the upper level of research in Malaga and Andalucía and it has a great deal of prestige.