Interview with Espriu Director-General Carlos Zarco, who was elected IHCO President on November 14
At the most recent assembly of the IHCO, you were elected as President. What priorities have you set for your term?
I think my main priority is to try to expand the health cooperatives belonging to the IHCO. There are at present 14 organisations, and I think that despite the economic difficulties faced by some health co-operatives, we should be aiming to have a presence on all five continents.
Meanwhile, in terms of daily operations, we are considering the types of initiative that would be of interest to our members, while aiming to offer added value through our organisation, assisting those activities that are common to all of us.
Recently, the IHCO published an international report on the contribution made by cooperatives to healthcare. What were the results and the main conclusions reached?
The study, undertaken by EURICSE, is an excellent tool in presenting the scale and strength of our cooperative health system worldwide. To begin with, the figure acknowledged by the B20 that health co-operatives around the world provide access to healthcare for a hundred million people is itself a striking one.
That is one of the reasons why I believe we need to continue developing The cooperative health report, for which we will be looking for funding.
Do you believe that cooperative healthcare is a genuine alternative to the development of national health systems? Why?
In some countries it unquestionably is. In Brazil, for example. In others, meanwhile, it plays a complementary role, as in the case of European countries. In any event, though, it releases public health resources which can then be given an alternative use, either in areas with a lower level of services, or others where demand is higher.
In November you took part at the assembly of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). In your opinion, what challenges does the cooperative movement face?
We are at a moment of change and need to wait a while to evaluate the directions that the ICA will take to develop its strategy. With the change of the ICA President and the presence of many new members on the Board, the best approach is to be cautious and wait for the first third of the year to pass, although having new elected Board members committed to the cooperative movement allows us to be optimistic as to the future of the Alliance.
You spent much of your healthcare career at the Lavinia Co-operative. What attracted you to this model? As a doctor, what is the difference between practising at a cooperative or some other type of enterprise?
I am convinced that it should be the aim of any doctor to work within the cooperative health model. A non-profit organisation that belongs to the social economy, which reinvests all its surplus to create and maintain employment and equip its facilities with the latest technology is the most attractive setting for doctors to develop their professional career… Without overlooking the democratic governance structure of cooperatives, which is itself no small matter.