Case spotlight: COVID-19 Management at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital

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This case was featured in Connect, issue 52, June 2021.

Who – the protagonist

Albert Salazar, manager of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (HUVH).

What?

At the beginning of 2020, HUVH had 1,154 hospital beds, an ICU capacity of 56 adult beds, and an area of direct influence over 430,000 inhabitants and an indirect influence over more than 2 million.

HUVH is the second largest hospital in Spain.

Bed and nurse in hospital corridor

Why?

Albert was pleased with how HUVH managed the COVID-19 crisis and his attention turned towards post-COVID management, which would bring with it a series of both challenges and opportunities.

Albert was sure that the hospital’s strategy for the future would be different.

When?

Albert took on the position of manager of HUVH at the end of June 2019, and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with the preparation of the hospital’s new strategic plan (2021-25).

Where?

HUVH is the largest tertiary hospital in Barcelona, Catalonia.

Key quote

“Organising patients by level of intensity of care would help improve the ratios of nurses’ hours according to the type of patient as well as rethink different professional competencies and enhance the added value that nursing and administrative staff could provide. But this is not just an issue for nurses; it is also a healthcare model issue and it is therefore necessary to involve the doctor, the case manager, etc.”
Albert Salazar, Manager of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (HUVH).

What next?

The HUVH management team was in the process of updating their fledgling strategic plan, which had been shelved at the start of the pandemic. They knew that with the cohesion achieved during the crisis, the possibilities for the future were great, but the positive energy could also diminish quickly if action was not taken.

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

Co-author, Jaume Ribera and case protagonist, Albert Salazar, discuss the case.

COVID-19 as a case subject

Jaume said: “At present, there is nothing else in print about a hospital's management of this pandemic. We've been able to see a real-life example of how the crisis is unfolding and how it fits into the hospital's strategy for the future.”

Albert commented: “Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over yet, so the challenge of confronting it and managing it continues. This case covers the first wave, but it presents lessons learned to face future waves and changes to the hospital's strategic plan. The case also reflects on how we've transformed our organisational structure to function better, with less hierarchy, putting the needs of the patient at the centre.”

COVID-19 vaccine

Access to information

Jaume added: “This Barcelona hospital wasn't the only one to successfully manage the health crisis, but it's notable as Catalonia's largest public hospital. More than 40,000 people pass through it each day. In addition, those responsible for running the hospital offered a degree of openness and many hours of interviews so that we could write a case that's very true to life.”

What students can learn from the case

Jaume continued: “It's an extremely compelling case for students because it allows us to analyse the phases of a crisis (preparation, detection, immediate action and recovery). That makes it ideal for considering which measures, applied mid-crisis, should be further consolidated and what else might be used to tackle COVID-19 or future pandemics.”

Albert concluded: “Contributing to this case has allowed us to put order to all the actions we undertook during the first wave and learn from them. There was a high degree of improvisation, with mere hours for planning, never more than 24-48 hours. Having a case study allows for reflection and a look at the lessons learned to make improvements.”

THE CASE 

The case

Who – the protagonist

Albert Salazar, manager of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (HUVH).

What?

At the beginning of 2020, HUVH had 1,154 hospital beds, an ICU capacity of 56 adult beds, and an area of direct influence over 430,000 inhabitants and an indirect influence over more than 2 million.

HUVH is the second largest hospital in Spain.

Bed and nurse in hospital corridor

Why?

Albert was pleased with how HUVH managed the COVID-19 crisis and his attention turned towards post-COVID management, which would bring with it a series of both challenges and opportunities.

Albert was sure that the hospital’s strategy for the future would be different.

When?

Albert took on the position of manager of HUVH at the end of June 2019, and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with the preparation of the hospital’s new strategic plan (2021-25).

Where?

HUVH is the largest tertiary hospital in Barcelona, Catalonia.

Key quote

“Organising patients by level of intensity of care would help improve the ratios of nurses’ hours according to the type of patient as well as rethink different professional competencies and enhance the added value that nursing and administrative staff could provide. But this is not just an issue for nurses; it is also a healthcare model issue and it is therefore necessary to involve the doctor, the case manager, etc.”
Albert Salazar, Manager of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital (HUVH).

What next?

The HUVH management team was in the process of updating their fledgling strategic plan, which had been shelved at the start of the pandemic. They knew that with the cohesion achieved during the crisis, the possibilities for the future were great, but the positive energy could also diminish quickly if action was not taken.

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

Author perspective

Co-author, Jaume Ribera and case protagonist, Albert Salazar, discuss the case.

COVID-19 as a case subject

Jaume said: “At present, there is nothing else in print about a hospital's management of this pandemic. We've been able to see a real-life example of how the crisis is unfolding and how it fits into the hospital's strategy for the future.”

Albert commented: “Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over yet, so the challenge of confronting it and managing it continues. This case covers the first wave, but it presents lessons learned to face future waves and changes to the hospital's strategic plan. The case also reflects on how we've transformed our organisational structure to function better, with less hierarchy, putting the needs of the patient at the centre.”

COVID-19 vaccine

Access to information

Jaume added: “This Barcelona hospital wasn't the only one to successfully manage the health crisis, but it's notable as Catalonia's largest public hospital. More than 40,000 people pass through it each day. In addition, those responsible for running the hospital offered a degree of openness and many hours of interviews so that we could write a case that's very true to life.”

What students can learn from the case

Jaume continued: “It's an extremely compelling case for students because it allows us to analyse the phases of a crisis (preparation, detection, immediate action and recovery). That makes it ideal for considering which measures, applied mid-crisis, should be further consolidated and what else might be used to tackle COVID-19 or future pandemics.”

Albert concluded: “Contributing to this case has allowed us to put order to all the actions we undertook during the first wave and learn from them. There was a high degree of improvisation, with mere hours for planning, never more than 24-48 hours. Having a case study allows for reflection and a look at the lessons learned to make improvements.”

THE CASE 

The authors

Jaume Ribera
Professor of Operations Management
Weiming Zhu
Assistant Professor of Production, Technology and Operations Management
Mihalis Markakis
Assistant Professor of Production, Technology and Operations Management
Miguel Cebrián
Research Assistant in Health Management
Laia Arnal
Business Development Director
Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research
Mariona Esquerdo
Health&Care Manager
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