Hospital leaders build global resilience at the 44th World Hospital Congress

15 November 2021

The 44th World Hospital Congress (WHC) came to an upbeat close last week in Barcelona (Spain), a year later than originally planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the first time, the event was fully hybrid, facilitating the participation of more than 1,200 in-person and 300 online delegates from over 70 countries. For four days, leaders and decision-makers in the healthcare community shared knowledge and good practices, exchanged new ideas and innovations, and networked with other senior executives.

The theme for this 44th WHC was “People on board: Transforming healthcare by blending agility, responsiveness, and resilience”. Highlights of the programme were:

  • An Opening Ceremony keynote address by Dr Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe of the World Health Organization, who paid tribute to health and care workers:

I want to ask you to convey – on behalf of WHO – a message of gratitude, respect and support to the teams you lead and their families, for the commitment, altruism and resilience you have all shown in the past two years.”

  • Public health leaders and hospital CEOs in Europe and North America exchanging ideas on getting ready for the next global pandemic. Hospital Clínic de Barcelona’s CEO-Clinical Hospital, Prof Josep M. Campistol, shared that:

We need an integrated healthcare system if we are to be ready for the next global pandemic. This involves using artificial intelligence, digital technology and new IT infrastructures.”

Meanwhile, Vaccinations Coordinator at The White House/USG, Dr Bechara Choucair, ended his virtual presentation with a reminder and challenge:

We already have the tools. We just have to finish the job with the truth, science… and confidence.”

  • Key stakeholders from industry, government and public health shared the lessons to learn from accelerating research, development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, shared the vaccine situation in Africa:

Vaccine hesitancy is not a problem here. The key challenge we have in the content is access to vaccines and how to get predictable access to vaccines.”

and called for a new public health order for Africa, which will stand on four pillars:

  • strengthened continental (Africa CDC) and National Public Health Institutions;
  • strengthened public health workforce;
  • expanded manufacturing of vaccines, and therapeutics;
  • respectful action-oriented partnerships.
  • Leaders in nursing outlined their critical contribution to transforming healthcare during a worldwide pandemic. Dr Maria Eulàlia Juvé Udina, Board Member at International Council of Nurses, Nurse Executive at the Catalan Institute of Health, and Nurse Researcher at IDIBELL Universitat de Barcelona, shared that:

Even before COVID-19, there was already the imbalance between required hours by patients and available professional nursing hours.”

and noted that this imbalance weakens hospitals resulting to situations like poor care quality and clinical outcomes, and even higher mortality.

  • A European-focused session explored ways to adopt, implement and scale up the organizational and technological innovations to come from the pandemic. Led by Dr Josep Figueras, Director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, who emphasized the power of collaborations between hospitals and stated:

The innovation is the implementation of the existing innovation.”

  • The IHF launched a Special Interest Group on “Leadership for Sustainability”, teaming up with Deloitte to support healthcare leaders in taking action on climate change.
  • The winners in each of six prestigious categories of the IHF Awards 2021 were announced at a special ceremony:
  • Deborah Bowen, FACHE, CAE, president and Chief Executive Officer of the American College of Healthcare Executives Federation, began her role as President of the IHF at the Closing Ceremony. Ms Bowen is only the second woman to serve as President and will also be succeeded by a woman, as Dr Muna Tahlak (Dubai) was elected President Designate. Bringing WHC to a close, Ms Bowen commented:

There’s never been a more important time to be a leader in healthcare. What drives us and binds us is our calling to deliver the highest quality of care to patients.”

The WHC is the premier event in the International Hospital Federation’s (IHF) calendar and the organizing partner and host for the 44th WHC was La Unió Catalana d’Hospitals (UCH). The 45th World Hospital Congress will take place in Dubai (UAE) on 9–11 November 2022.