Published 10/17/2021 7:14 AM
Omar Abu Jamra, Jr., from Unimed do Brasil: Medical quality, presence across the country and proximity to communities characterize the cooperatives – (credit: ruyhiza)
From Monday (10/18), the capital of Pernambuco will have a new high-complexity hospital. With 200 beds, 20 of which are intensive care, and equipped for robotic surgery, the service is part of the Unimed Recife hospital complex, in Ilha do Leite. This will be the 14th hospital to be delivered by the Unimed system to the country since the beginning of 2020. The new units total over 1,100 beds and represent a structural investment of R$1.5 billion in care capacity.
Medical cooperatives are already mobilizing nearly 2,500 accredited hospitals across the country and pumping more than R$56 billion annually into the health system. The company’s own network, consisting of 152 hospitals and day hospitals, as well as clinics, emergency units and diagnostic centers, strategically complements the services. By 2023, four more Unimed hospitals should start, including in the hub cities of Londrina, in Parana, and Contagem, in greater Belo Horizonte.
“These are investments related to the Brazilian health sector, which are being made by our collaborating physicians,” confirms Omar Abu Jamra Jr., president of Unimed do Brasil, the union that represents the system. The strategy also contributes to strengthening the leadership of health cooperatives. Unimed serves 18.3 million beneficiaries, or 38% of the health plans market – a share that has expanded amid the pandemic. Since June 2020, when the sector resumed growth after five years between decline and stability, Unimeds’ portfolio has grown by 3.8% and attracted 680,000 new customers.
The positive numbers reinforce a historic milestone for the common system. The network of medical cooperatives, which originated in the city of Santos, in 1967, began to expand throughout the country exactly 50 years ago, propelled by a project by Associação Médica Brasileira and its associations. As local organizations, cooperatives have helped secure doctors even in small towns and make regional health systems financially viable. In fact, Unimed currently covers 86% of Brazilian municipalities, in all states.
“In these 50 years, the Unimed system’s greatest legacy has been to contribute to the uptake of high-quality healthcare in Brazil. Our cooperatives directly affect the economic and social development of the periphery, create jobs, mobilize the service chain and provide technology,” Omar Abu Jamra analyzes. He continues: “Our medical quality, the poetic capacity of our system and the close and direct connection with the communities in which we operate are today, Unimed’s unbeatable differentials.”
Knowledge of local health realities has proven to be even more important in the context of the pandemic, according to Omar, so that each Unimed can identify needs and have an appropriate action plan – in many cases, integrated into partnerships with municipalities. In addition to maintaining the planned investments, the system responded to the crisis with emergency measures, in more than 550 initiatives to adapt the service network. A survey conducted with 119 cooperatives, which together help 12 million customers, showed that since the start of the pandemic, more than 13,000 health professionals have been hired to bolster the front lines.
One important innovation was the adoption of telemedicine systems, including the training of doctors in partnership with Associação Paulista de Medicina. There has also been a 58% expansion of ICU capacity already installed, 12 field hospitals opening at the most critical moment and the establishment of specialized care centers to monitor patients suffering from the physical and emotional consequences of post-Covid-19.
The local connection is also reflected in social and environmental projects. According to the organization’s social budget, in 2020, the system Unimed invested 85 million R$ in external projects, focused on the environment, volunteering, health, education, vocational training, sports, culture, recreational and social activities, benefiting 9,9000 entities across Brazil. In the wake of the economic crisis, aid initiatives and humanitarian aid alone doubled in the past year, directly benefiting nearly one million people.
Complementary Business Performance
One of the strengths of the Brazilian health sector, in the past 30 years, Unimed has entered new business sectors enhancing its outstanding performance. According to the International Cooperative Alliance, we are among the world’s 30 largest co-op systems by revenue. “In the health field, we have the best experience,” says Omar Abu Jamra, Jr.
Among the nationwide operations are Central Nacional Unimed, with a portfolio of more than 1.9 million healthcare plan beneficiaries, and Unimed Odonto, a dental plan operator with 600,000 customers. On the other hand, Seguros Unimed operates in the areas of health, life, pension, property insurance and civil liability, as well as financial management through InvestCoop Asset Management. The system also contains MultiCoop, a supplemental closed retirement entity serving members and employees. Business expansion and the search for new operating models is on the agenda of Unimed Participações Holdings for the coming years.
To take care of culture and train technical staff, doctors and managers of cooperatives, the system contains the Unimed faculty, which is accredited by the Ministry of Education since 2016. The institution is maintained by an institution established 26 years ago, and the institution has already trained more than 150,000 specialists in various models of training .
Unimed system in large numbers
18.3 million health plan customers
38% share in complementary health
341 medical cooperative
Covered 86% of Brazilian municipalities
118 thousand collaborating doctors
134,000 direct employees
152 private hospitals
2487 accredited hospital
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