Organisational innovations and health care decentralisation: A perspective from Spain
Recent policy developments in public health care systems lead to a greater diversity in health care. Decentralisation, either geographically or at an institutional level, is the key force, because it encourages innovation and local initiatives in health care provision. The devolution of responsibilities allows for a sort of ‘de-construction’ of the status quo by changing both organizational forms and service provision. The new organizations enjoy greater freedom in the way they pay their staff, and are judged according to their results. These organizations may retain financial surpluses, develop ‘spin-off’ companies and commission a range of specialised services (such as Diagnostic and Treatment Centres in UK) from providers outside the institutional setting in order to have more access to capital markets. However this diversity may generate a feeling of lack of commitment to a national health service and ultimately a loss of social cohesion. By fiscal decentralisation to regional authorities or planned delegation of financial agreements to the providers, financial incentives are more explicit and may seem to place profit-making above a commitment to better health care. An evaluation of the ‘myths and realities’ of the decentralization process is needed. Here, I offer an assessment ‘pros’ and ‘cons’of the decentralization process of health care in Spain, drawing on the experience of regional reforms from the pioneering organisational innovations implemented in Catalonia in 1981, up to the observed dispersion of health care spending per capita among regions at present.
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