The Business Year

Leopoldo Giraldo Velásquez

Manager, Hospital General de Medellí­n

Andrés Aguirre Martí­nez

General Director, Hospital Pablo Tobón Uribe

How would you assess the state of development is the private healthcare sector in Colombia? LEOPOLDO GIRALDO VELÁSQUEZ Colombia has gone from a little over 20% of people with access […]

How would you assess the state of development is the private healthcare sector in Colombia?

LEOPOLDO GIRALDO VELÁSQUEZ Colombia has gone from a little over 20% of people with access to the public healthcare system to over 90%. Today, access to health services for the poorest communities in society is much better than it was previously. Along with increased access, the network of public hospitals has become stronger, and it provides higher quality standards, thanks in part to increased spending in health care, which today stands at around 8% of GDP. However, even though there has been an increase in investment, I believe public health care should have developed further by this point; I believe that the regulatory and governing bodies in the sector should have a clearer vision of what the public healthcare sector needs to achieve, and a path toward where we want to go. I think that we should improve controls and monitor issues in the system, which in the end should also improve the flow of economic resources. I believe that the system needs structural reforms to improve the quality of services, promote more transparency, and make economic resources more accessible.

ANDRÉS AGUIRRE MARTÍNEZ The sector is rapidly developing and most of the players are non-profit organizations that are focused on generating research, results, and know-how for the sake of the development of the healthcare system in the country. I would say that all the revenues private institutions make are fully reinvested in developing infrastructure and acquiring technologically advanced equipment.

What potential does Colombia hold to become a major center of medical tourism in the region?

LGV Colombia has excellent practitioners at the surgery, transplant, and traumatology levels. Today, we have many foreigners coming to Colombia to receive organ transplants, as well as to have plastic surgery. Colombia has left behind its image of being an insecure and undeveloped country, which has contributed to boost tourism figures at the national level, including the number of medical tourists visiting the country.

AAM There are currently many ongoing initiatives in this area, and the country is actively promoting the development of a health tourism segment. In fact, Medellí­n has a group of institutions that is leading the way to set up a health cluster in the city. Some 400 foreign patients were treated in the city of Medellí­n in 2000, whereas in 2010 the figure went up to over 7,000 patients. The growth is starting to become more relevant due to the increase in services, higher standards, and relatively low price when compared to services in their home countries. In addition to this, the country is rapidly growing and has a vast and long tradition in training high-level medical professionals. Also, in the last few years we have seen an important increase in the number of Colombian doctors educated abroad that come back to work, and that is clearly benefiting the development of the healthcare sector.

How would you assess the sector’s workforce?

LGV Health education in Colombia is strongly focused on clinical processes, and over the years we have lacked emphasis on public health care at the educational level. I believe that young professionals are not being educated in a way to ensure that they can fit into the system. This is something that needs to be addressed.

AAM There are several institutions specialized in training highly skilled and professional doctors nationally. However, many Colombians have been, and are, educated abroad. Once they finish their studies, they come back to work in Colombia. For example, we have many professionals here that studied in the Hospital Clí­nic de Barcelona, a leading institution internationally.

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