Interview of Inés Villadiego from the Department of Social Services of the Cartagena Municipality
Inés Villadiego is a young mother with two children who works as public servant in the Cartagena Municipality (Department of Social Services). She works on the program called “Ingreso Social”, a governamental strategy that aims to overcome poverty providing technical and technological education to people with low incomes through an incentive mechanism.
In the last two years the beneficiaries of the program “Ingreso Social”, mostly young mothers head of the household who did not finish their studies, were sent to the Tribunal for the patients’ rights, located at the Primary Care Server CAP – Centro de Atención Primario of “La Esperanza”, to improve their capacity to stay in public and work in teams.
The combined work of La Corporación Tribunal de Derechos and the Department of Social Services of Cartagena, with Inés and her team’s support, gave the chance to more than 40 young women to exercise their rights of citizenship controlling the public services activities and the defense of their rights.
In the interview Inés gives us her point of view on the healthcare situation and the activity of the institutions of civic participation (Veedurías) of the Cartagena district.
1. The study “Risks of corruption in the healthcare sector in Colombia” done by UNDP in 2013 concluded that the corruption has a negative impact on Colombians health, above all for the most disadvantaged populations like the one of Cartagena of Indias. In fact, this study demonstrated that the city’s healthcare system is the worst of the six considered: Bogotá, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Medellín e Cali. According to you, how the phenomenon of corruption should be faced?
I believe we need to strengthen the activity of clinics especially concerning emergency services, hospitalization and special consultations. I also think that there is a need to introduce changes in the existing clinics, in the services that they provide and to open other centers of care. Talking about corruption in healthcare I have to say that in Cartagena there are many incomplete projects and works of hospitals: it is the case of, for example, Hospital San Fernando, Policlínica of Olaya Herrara and Nelson Mandela. These are hospitals designed to face the crisis of the health sector and that are not given the right attention and control by the citizenship in spite of their importance and relevance.
2. In this context, what is, according to you, the functional and development level of the civic participation institutes (Veedurías)?
The so called Veedurías, if they exist, have not in any case a big impact that can really help to face all the problems related to the healthcare sector. I believe that these civic centers can function only for specific cases or can provide only short term solutions. We are in front of a problem at an administrative and district level.
3. From your point of view how the local institutions see the development of citizens centers of healthcare protection? What is your idea of the Tribunal of patients’ rights experience of Cartagena and of its activity in the clinics of the neighborhood “La Esperanza”?
Unquestionably, they represent a great help as they register, inform, guide and orientate patients as well as authorities towards the administrative problems solution and the effective practice of their rights in the healthcare system. All this also allow citizens to have the perception that somebody is protecting them assuring assistance. To what concern the volunteers, these centers allow citizens to become aware of the information coming from the Tribunal and share and spread it in their communities.
4. Can the Tribunal for the patients’ rights represent a new more concrete and effective way for the citizens community participation to control public and private activities in the health sector fighting the corruption?
Yes, of course. As citizens are the first to identify cases of infringement of patients’ or public services users rights, the Tribunal let them know what are their rights not leaving them vulnerable, requiring what is legitimate and pressuring the authorities to respect them.
5. In what way public institutions, in general, and the Department of Social Services, in particular, can be of support to the Tribunal for patients’ rights and for other civic activities of “citizens for citizens”?
Public institutions can in general keep on giving space and help to open new centers of protection and assistance and the Department of Social Services will keep on helping and supporting the voluntary work of the Association, providing the necessary personnel and what is needed to complete the Tribunal’s activities.
Interview by Mariano Votta, Director of Active Citizenship Network News, August 2014, with the collaboration of Carlos Ceballos.
Name and surname: Inés Villadiego
Institucion/office: Alcaldía de Cartagena - Departamento para la Prosperidad Social, Programa Ingreso Social
Role: Trabajadora social