Across the world, health co-operatives provide services to more than 81 million people. Health cooperatives provide services to more than 81 million people around the world. IHCO President Dr. José Carlos Guisado states: “In Antalya, we will be talking about cooperative identity, and we feel that health cooperatives are a very good example. We are able to provide the services we do and make a difference because we are cooperatives.”
The role of cooperatives in healthcare is becoming increasingly important as the aging population is expanding and public social services are tightening. The ILO Cooperatives Unit (COOP) and the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch (GED) launched a survey pertaining to the provision of care through cooperatives. Preliminary findings based on the interviews and survey responses suggest that cooperatives around the world are providing care in a number of ways: as worker coops, as multi-stakeholder co-operatives and even as add-on services to existing cooperatives, such as housing coops.
Cooperatives make a difference for both care beneficiaries and workers. According to survey respondents, cooperatives often provide higher wages, more benefits and greater bargaining power when negotiating with employers. They also enable care beneficiaries to take ownership and control over their health and well-being.
Dr. Guisado says that cooperatives have established a different approach to health by empowering patients. “We consider that each patient has an important role to play within the health system. People come to us because they feel that we treat them differently.”
In addition to serving on the Board of the IHCO, Dr. Guisado is also Chief Executive of Fundacion Espriu of Spain, which provides health services to more than two million people and employs 32,500 health professionals. Dr. Guisado added: “We are both users and providers, and this makes a very important difference in the health sector.”
He believes that the best results can be achieved by having the cooperative sector and the public sector work together for the benefit of consumers. Fundación Espriu is responsible for operating a number of publicly owned hospitals, a measure that has proven to be efficient and has increased user satisfaction.
According to Dr. Guisado: “We are not challenging the public system, we are trying to help them, and collaboration with governments is important.” In countries like Brazil and Spain, the cooperative model in healthcare preceded universal access to healthcare. Health cooperatives have led the consolidation of the healthcare system. The model is also growing in Canada, where 1 in 40 people use cooperatives for well-being, medical and social services”
One challenge is that governments often look at the cooperative option for healthcare provision only as a last resort. “We provide solutions to problems, but there is no follow-up from that, and we need to make it clear to the world that we are a good solution, not only for developing countries, but also for developed states”, says Dr. Guisado
In 2014, the IHCO launched the Better Health and Social Care survey, which looks at the contribution of cooperatives to global healthcare. A second edition of the report is likely to be published next year, according to Dr. Guisado.