The Amancio Ortega Foundation will donate 280 million euros for the acquisition of 10 proton therapy equipment, cancer treatment, which will be assigned to public hospitals in Barcelona and Madrid (two in each city), and also in A Coruña, Malaga, Seville, Valencia, Vizcaya and Gran Canaria, according to the agreement signed this Tuesday afternoon in the Palacio de la Moncloa by the entity, the central government and the benefited autonomous communities.
The donation will allow to meet “present and future needs” of public health and will also accelerate “clinical research with this treatment ”, Stated the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez. It will be the Ministry of Health that will carry out the purchase of the equipment, which will be carried out in four annual installments. “Thanks to the commitment of the Foundation,” Sánchez continued, the cost of the equipment for the public coffers will be “0 euros.”
José Arnau Sierra, vice president of the Amancio Ortega Foundation, has It was pointed out that the new agreement will complement a previous program, also financed by the entity of the owner of Inditex – whose fortune amounts to 77. 000 million euros, according to the magazine Forbes -, which has allowed the acquisition of “450 diagnostic equipment and cancer treatment in public hospitals throughout Spain, which is currently in its final phase. ”
“ The objective is to implement cancer treatment using accelerators of protons. This cutting-edge technology was among the objectives of health professionals and public managers “, added Arnau Sierra, who highlighted the entity’s commitment” to public health, one of the pillars of the welfare state and one of the great achievements of our country. ”
Manel Algara, head of the Radiation Oncology service at Hospital del Mar (Barcelona), explains that“ proton therapy is a type of radiotherapy that instead of administering photons or electrons, as does the one already installed in many hospitals, administers protons, which requires much more complex and expensive equipment than the ones we currently have. ”
The advantage of proton therapy is that delivers radiation “in a more precise way” and “with a lower overall dose,” reducing the total radiation the patient receives. “This is very important for cancer cases in children, since it greatly reduces the risk of developing a second cancer in the past 20 or 30 years. For this reason, today the main indication for proton therapy is for children, although better results have also been shown in tumors of the central nervous system in adults and it is foreseeable that in the coming years this will spread to other tumors ”, adds Algara .
Donations to public health such as those made by the Amancio Ortega Foundation have been the subject of controversy in recent years, in a debate whose theoretical basis opposes a model linked to the Welfare State of the Continental Europe, in which public services are financed almost entirely with tax collection, with a more liberal one with an Anglo-Saxon tradition, where this type of agreement is much more rooted.
José Félix Lobo , a professor specialized in Health Economics at the Carlos III University (Madrid), considers that these donations are compatible with a public health system such as the Spanish one and that they should be “welcome”. “They are aid that in some points helps to alleviate public funding. The basis that sustains the system are taxes and the obligation of the administrations is to provide it with sufficient means. Also, clearly set planning priorities and subordinate these contributions to them, because we cannot and should not think that philanthropy is going to solve our problems. Within this scheme, this is a plus, an added gift that is welcome. Hopefully many rich people and large companies carry out image campaigns through this type of agreement ”, he explains.
Ildefonso Hernández, professor in Public Health at the Miguel Hernández University of Alicante is somewhat more cautious. “It would be desirable that the amounts donated were not for a specific purpose, but were incorporated into the common fund for governments to allocate them to the highest priority, which for example now would be primary care or public health services.”
One of the arguments used for donations to be finalists is that they are encouraged if they go to a specific purpose, which allows those who make them see the result of their financial effort. “This can also be achieved”, affirms Hernández, “informing about the destination that the money will have or has had, but dysfunctions can occur if the donor chooses it. One is that when funds are allocated to technological means, which require significant maintenance, this compromises public resources in the medium and long term that may have to be withdrawn from other higher priority areas in the medium and long term. ”
Other entities, such as the Federation of Associations in Defense of Public Health (FADSP), reject this type of donation instead. “The maintenance of the SNS and its equipment should not depend on the good or bad will of a person. It is convenient to consolidate among society the idea that a universal system is financed with the taxes that people and companies pay according to their obligations and not with charity or generous acts ”, emphasizes its spokesperson, Marciano Sánchez-Bayle.
Private donations to public policies have gained weight in recent years also in the international arena. The best known case is that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has made billion-dollar contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) that have led the creator of Microsoft to become the second largest financier of this organization.
In Spain, 3.6 million citizens and an undetermined number of companies made donations to non-profit organizations in 2019, the last year with available data. The Tax Agency does not give detailed figures of these altruistic contributions or what part of them are destined for health purposes. Only the amount of associated tax deductions: 557, 17 million to individuals and 189, 2 million contributed by the companies.