A clinical construction

Announced last year, the construction of the aptly named Smart Hospital Cantabria is set to give healthcare in northern Spain a much-needed boost

The Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital, Santander 

Smart Hospital Cantabria is a joint venture between Ferrovial Servicos and SIECSA that aims to revolutionise and digitise healthcare in northern Spain. Based out of the iconic Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital in the bustling seaside capital of Cantabria, the €101m ($129m) smart hospital project will see the depression-era hospital given a complete technological makeover.

Over the course of two years, the erection of high-rise tower blocks, new operating theatres and a cutting-edge data centre will pump millions into the regional economy, which is in dire need of diversification, and should single-handedly establish the city as a national base for health research. Ferrovial Servicos and SIECSA will then go on to co-manage non-medical related services at Valdecilla for a further 20 years after construction, at a cost of €760m ($99.4m). As a single joint-venture, the companies will replace over 40 separate service contractors. Yet in order to oversee operations, the two firms will be forced to draw from a wealth of experience across multiple industries.

Over the course of two years, the erection of high-rise tower blocks, new operating theatres and a cutting-edge data centre will pump millions into the
regional economy

SIECSA is a domestic construction firm that was founded in 1976 by Juan Miguel Garcia, who still heads its board of directors today. The company maintains a pool of around 400 workers that undertake a wide array of industrial projects – from sports and tourist facilities to hotel and catering activities. SIECSA has long held responsibility for the management of water supply and sanitation in Santander and the surrounding area.

Almost 85 percent of the company’s suppliers are based across Cantabria, and it has a long-standing relationship supplying construction and infrastructural works to the government of Cantabria and its various public subsidiaries.

These have ranged from highway construction to the channelling of river banks, allowing SIECSA to embrace a recent spurt of optimal growth and acquisitions that have drastically reduced its reliance upon subcontractors and expanded its pool of engineers
and surveyors.

A joint effort
SIECSA’s emphasis on integrated quality management and risk prevention have earned it distinction as the Cantabria region’s most decorated construction firm. Much of the local supply and early infrastructural demands of the Smart Hospital Cantabria project, which was launched at the end of 2013, are reliant upon SIECSA’s firm roots in the area.

Ferrovial Servicos, on the other hand, is a multinational firm based in Madrid. It has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of the past two decades. It was founded in 1952 as a railroad construction company – and remained more or less so until it turned its interests towards diversification and investment in the 1990s.

Company bosses began by purchasing high-speed rail firm AVE, which led to a series of high-profile contracts that included the Seville Expo and Barcelona Olympic Games. From there, Ferrovial acquired leading Spanish contractor Agromán in 1995. Shortly thereafter, the firm established subsidiary Cintra in order to handle a wide array of contracts relating to transportation infrastructure. Today, Cintra is one of the largest firms of its kind, with a total investment of €16bn ($20.4bn). Ferrovial continued to expand across Europe at the turn of the century, purchasing Polish competitor Budimex Dromex and multiple UK airports.

In 2006, a consortium led by Ferrovial’s bold new board purchased Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly BAA) for over £10bn ($16m). The company was subsequently de-listed from the LSE. From there, a series of high-profile sales have gone on to fuel the company’s revenue margin substantially – including the 2012 sale of Edinburgh Airport for £807m ($1.29bn), as well as shedding Stansted Airport in 2013 for £1.5bn ($2.4bn). Ferrovial also operates US construction firm Webber, Spanish urban and industrial waste firm CESPA and Amey, a UK-based firm involved in infrastructure support services.

This wide array of acquisitions has allowed Ferrovial to foster. Today, the once-modest railroad firm employs 57,000 workers in over 25 countries – and is responsible for some of North America’s busiest roadways and Europe’s busiest airports. With a total contract backlog of €26.13bn ($33.3bn), the firm’s revenues have already shot up by 11 percent in the first half of 2014, and show no signs of slowing.

A visualisation of one of the hospital’s glass corridors
A visualisation of one of the hospital’s glass corridors

Nationwide presence
Ferrovial’s primary contribution to its latest joint venture in Santander, however, will revolve largely around its experience in hospital management and maintenance. As it stands, Ferrovial boasts a presence in 144 hospitals across Spain, the UK and Poland through its various subsidiaries – totalling over 41,000 beds. Services on offer include everything from building and medical facility maintenance to the operation of call centres, cleaning and patient transport. The company maintains a particularly large presence in La Paz, Gregorio Marañón and 12 de Octubre hospitas in Madrid, Virgen del Rocío in Sevilla and Clínico Universitario in Valladolid.

Yet Ferrovial has recently set its sights on a more encompassing approach to hospital management. In August, the firm’s services subsidiary won a €146m ($186.27m), 15-year contract to deliver energy, maintenance, cleaning and security services at the three hospitals of Galicia’s Ourense University complex. It is this one-stop-shop brand of management that Ferrovial will implement in its new Smart Hospital; however, this latest project goes a step further by seeking to incorporate a level of technology currently unprecedented in Spain’s general hospital market.

Valdecilla University Hospital was founded in 1929 as one of the first nursing schools on the Iberian Peninsula. Following the Spanish Civil War, the school was transformed into a military hospital and earned a national reputation as an ill-equipped, run-down medical base. Later integration into the country’s National Health System, however, saw the hospital gradually evolve into the homes of northern Spain’s top trauma and maternity bases.

That said, Santander’s role as a major healthcare provider has been relatively marginalised in recent years by its formidable finance sector. The city is, after all, home to Banco Santander, one of the eurozone’s largest financial institutions in terms of market capitalisation. Yet in a desperate bid to diversify the city’s brand capital, local politicians are hopeful this major facelift for Veldecilla will earn Santander a new reputation as the country’s top hospital city. That evolution will require heavy investment in the 900-bed hospital’s blatant technological gap.

Hospital of the future
The Smart Hospital project should serve to bridge that gap. First and foremost, the hospital will be outfitted with a cutting-edge data centre, new wi-fi network and 3,000 PCs. More important still, the project will introduce a set of high-end medical equipment such as CT and ultrasound scanners and accelerators.

Meanwhile, the project will drastically reorganise the hospital’s layout through the construction of three new tower blocks. Those towers will house diverse and currently unattended specialities, operating theatres and laboratories. More important still, the development will fill area demand by constructing 348 new in-patient rooms, a larger maternity clinic and recovery area.

For the first time, underground tunnels will be dug in order to better connect the sprawling complex, and 35 new lifts will be installed to relieve footfall congestion. The Smart Hospital initiative is predicted to bring around 800 new jobs to the region as a result of its two-year expansion. As part of Valdecilla’s rebranding as a so-called hospital of the future, Ferrovial has placed extra emphasis on trimming the complex’s
energy consumption.

At Ourense University Hospital in Galicia, the company is already on track to cut primary energy usage by around 15 percent. Carbon emissions are set to drop by over half. In the nearby city of Bilbao, Ferrovial has cut energy costs by a quarter, earning it a research partnership with MIT.

It’s that sort of all-encompassing efficiency strategy with which regional politicians hope Ferrovial and SIECSA will reinvent and rebrand Valdecilla – and, with any luck, the entire city of Santander.



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