Interview with Nayibe Flòrez Hernandez, Director of the Legal Advice Center of the Fundaciòn Universitaria Tecnològico Comfenalco who tells us about the students commitment in the Tribunal for Patients’ Rights of Cartagena back office
1. The Fundacion Universitaria Tecnológico Comfenalco is one of the largest private universities in Cartagena: please present it to those who do not know it
The University Foundation Tecnológico Comfenalco is an institution of higher education recognized by the Ministry of National Education of Colombia. It was established in 1984 by the Caja de compensación familiar Comfenalco (a private savings bank) to respond to the needs of higher education of both its members and the community of Cartagena living on a low income.
It provides training through a system of teaching cycles which allows students to attend initially only the first course of technical studies and then enter the labour market; if they choose to go to university, their technical curriculum will be recognized and will be able to graduate by attending two more years.
The University currently offers 13 technical courses, 8 university courses, continued education to obtain a diploma, specialization courses and master courses.
Among its governing bodies we can cite the General Council, the Board of Directors and the Rector who is currently Mauricio Ricardo Ruiz. In addition, each faculty has a Dean and the faculty of social sciences and humanities (offering a degree course in Law) is run by Roberto Gamboa Renteria.
The degree course in Law provides for a Law Tutoring department, of which I am the director; a space for academic and professional practice for final year students.
2. In that way does the university cooperate with the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos?
Since the aim of this department is to help students to approach professional practice, it is a feature of the law degree which interacts directly with the community.
Through an agreement with the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos, students support the volunteers working for the Tribunal, providing professional legal guidance for the protection of the right to health guaranteed by our constitution, including laws and regulations, for those patients who request it. This is offered through free legal advice when a specialist intervention is required and to ensure that our students take turns five days a week the Tribunal para la Defensa de los Pacientes, situated in the premises of the Cap La Esperanza.
Students carrying out this counselling and guidance activity are supported by a teacher who acts as tutor, as well as collaborating in their training on specific topics of interest.
3. What is the feedback from the students?
This experience for the students of Law with the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos is extremely rewarding since they can discover the social value of their studies, matching theory with practice when faced with violations of fundamental rights. Furthermore, this experience also helps them understand the role that professionals should take in order to contribute with their knowledge and their work to the growth and development of the country.
The response from our students was so positive and supportive that we can now proudly state that two of them assigned to this project have become part of the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos.
4. Which are the most significant cases presented to the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos which have found a solution through the advice of the Fundacion Universitaria Tecnológico Comfenalco?
The most relevant cases we have helped to solve are those for which it was necessary to advance "derechos de petición" (a particular legal principle established by law to protect the rights of Colombian citizens).
For example, to request the drugs not guaranteed by the health service (the so-called "No POS-Plan Obligatorio de Salud”); to obtain the transfer by ambulance from home to the hospital in cases where unemployed patients do not have an insurance coverage (the so-called "EPS-Entidades promotoras de salud"). And, to help citizens acquire minimum health insurance coverage (the so-called "Régimen Subsidiado" a mechanism by which the poorest people have access to health services by means of a subsidy granted by the State).
5. According to you, how can you strengthen the Corporación Tribunal de Derechos in the future?
We can now affirm that the first stages of this project have been implemented, despite the difficulties this experience has become well known, thanks also to the fact that the Corporación has been recognised as a legal entity.
In order to continue to provide this service to the community, the Corporación needs additional support, which could enable it to extend its business to other primary care centres (Cap-Centro de atención primaria) of the city and to carry out prevention and guidance activities in the communities; it would also be crucial to establish strong links with local authorities, national and international organizations, as well as obtaining a financial contribution to ensure continuing training for its volunteers.
Interview by Mariano Votta, Director of Active Citizenship Network News, August 2014
Nayibe Flòrez Hernandez
Directora del Consultorio Jurídico
Fundaciòn Universitaria Tecnològico Comfenalco, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia