The Espriu Foundation, 30 years at the service of social medicine


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The Espriu Foundation, 30 years at the service of social medicine

It has been three decades since Lavinia, Autogestión Sanitaria, ASISA and SCIAS decided to come together in their goal to develop, promote and disseminate a new healthcare model based on cooperativism.

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Today its member institutions care for 2.3 million people in Spain and it has over 181,000 cooperative members.

“The Espriu Foundation has spent 30 years at the service of social medicine, promoting a business model with values and which focuses its activity on people, with a vocation towards serving the patient and respecting the rights of patients and doctors”, said Carlos Zarco, Managing Director of the Espriu Foundation and Chairman of the International Health Cooperative Organization (IHCO).

The roots of the Espriu Foundation date back to over 60 years ago when there was no universal healthcare coverage in Spain. In 1957, Doctor Josep Espriu from Barcelona thought of a way to guarantee equal access to healthcare and improve the conditions of professionals. He created a series of entities directly managed by doctors, which would later become a unique cooperative healthcare model worldwide.

This saw the creation of Assistència Sanitària Col·legial, a business group offering medical services to the people of Barcelona with a vision of social medicine. The success of this social economy model meant the initiative was extended to the rest of Spain, creating ASISA and the Lavinia cooperative of doctors, while in Barcelona he promoted the Autogestión Sanitaria cooperative and included patients in the management of the model by creating SCIAS, a cooperative of users.

In order to ensure cooperative healthcare was promoted in Spain and abroad, in 1989 Dr Espriu created a forum of these institutions, thus forming the Espriu Foundation.


As a result of Dr Espriu’s convictions on the capacity of his healthcare formula to adapt to other contexts, in the later stages of his life he undertook intense international activity which in 1991 led to the foundation being accepted into the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). Furthermore, in 1996 the foundation was one of the driving forces behind creating the International Health Cooperative Organization (IHCO).

Creating something is very difficult, but keeping it alive is also very difficult and the Espriu Foundation has far exceeded this, and not only in my opinion, but in the opinion of the world cooperativism movement”, said Francisco Ivorra, Vice-president of the Espriu Foundation and President of ASISA.

Teresa BasurteReinvesting profit and the doctor-patient relationship

Over these thirty years the foundation has been known for the premise of focusing activity on serving the patient. This philosophy of serving social medicine means that all profit is reinvested in new technologies and, therefore, in improving care quality.

Teresa Basurte, President of the Espriu Foundation, highlights that the model is unique for its joint doctor-patient management and, therefore, the patient’s level of decision making:


The technical means we have today facilitate user participation. And this is at several stages of the doctor-patient relationship

Ignacio Orce, Vice-president of the Espriu Foundation and President of Asistencia Sanitaria, stressed that the cooperative healthcare management model is valid today and has prospects for the future, “in a global world in which the benefactor State will see its management capacities increasingly limited due to economic or other reasons.”

Corporate Social Responsibility in its DNA

Ethical management and fostering inclusion are two other CSR policies that are part of the DNA of the Espriu Foundation due to the nature of the cooperative model, which is in turn based on the social economy. An example of this are the progress reports drafted on the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact or the Discret certificate in managing disability which has been awarded to one of the foundation’s hospitals, the HLA Moncloa.

Meanwhile, as part of the Espriu Foundation’s ambition to build a socially responsible world, integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) approved by the UN in its 2030 Agenda in healthcare management is another hallmark of this healthcare cooperative network.

Along these lines, Juan Antonio Pedreño, Chairman of the Spanish Social Economy Business Confederation (CEPES), stated that “The social economy is an economy that is committed to building a future of sustainable development. The best guarantee for complying with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Watch the video ‘30 years of cooperativism at the service of social medicine’ and learn more about the Espriu Foundation.

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