Argimon, Pané, Vergés... The 14-F elections decide who will lead the path out of the pandemic

Aragonès qualifies of "extraordinary" the current Minister's work, but avoids to confirm her continuity

4 min
The councillor of Health, Alba Vergés, during the press conference this Thursday to explain the circuit that covid -19 patients follow and how contact tracing and monitoring is done

BarcelonaSalvador Illa announced a few days ago that Olga Pané, current manager of the Hospital del Mar, would be his Minister of Health if he were to become president of Catalonia. Laura Borràs made a surprise announcement during the debate on TV3 pointing out the name of the current secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, and stating he would be her Health Minister. Of the three parties that, according to the polls, dispute the victory on 14-F, it only remains to be known who would occupy the position of Health Minister if it depended on ERC. And, in spite of the fact that the republicans have in their list the current Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, the head of list, Pere Aragonès, has avoided on Wednesday to confirm her continuity. "I will wait for the results of 14-F before assigning responsibilities", he answered when asked by Lídia Herèdia on Els matins de TV3. "From 14 February we can start talking about names", he insisted when asked a second time. And, on the third, he stressed that " Minister Vergés has done an extraordinary job", but he did not confirm she would continue.

According to Aragonès, it will have to be the partners in the broad government that he proposes those that will have to come to an agreement on the distribution of responsibilities. Therefore, it will not be until these talks take place that the doubts about the Ministry of Health, the most delicate since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, will be clarified. He has assured that he maintains "confidence" in all the teams. In fact, he said he was satisfied with the government's management of the pandemic, although he added that "there are always things to improve".

Vergés had publicly shown her willingness to continue in the Ministry. Precisely in an interview on TV3 in late October said that "the will is there". "I would repeat", she said at the time, stressing that she and her team had "projects to transform the health system".

Regarding the announcement of the candidate of JxCat, Aragonès has explained that he had not yet been able to speak with Argimon about it but, in any case, this shows that, according to him, "Health has known how to make good teams". "We trust in sanitary and technical criteria, and now those who have said that things had not been done well enough want to take advantage of the existing teams", he remarked.

Post-electoral unknowns

The polls predict that no one will achieve an absolute majority and, therefore, the distribution of the Ministries will necessarily be decided after 14-F. The announcement made by Borràs in the TV3 debate is the consequence of what JxCat has been saying during the campaign: they want to manage the area of Health, which is now in the hands of ERC. At a rally in Girona, the Junts candidate stressed on Wednesday that "Dr. Argimon is a guarantee of professionalism, calm, and good management". "It serves as a prelude to the model of Ministers that we will need to face the problems that will come", she added.

Argimon was appointed Secretary of Public Health in July, after the post was vacant for two and a half months following the resignation of Joan Guix. It was the then president of the Government, Quim Torra, who suggested the name of Argimon, who was already the managing director of the Catalan Institute of Health, as he himself explained in parliament. In fact, Torra had given 48 hours to the Minister of Health to uncall the appointment. Argimon, who according to Borràs agreed last week, has preferred not to value the scenario that opens before him, and simply thanked the "trust" and the "recognition" of the candidate of Junts. "Let's leave the political debate for the politicians", he said, just before affirming that he has "a great professional respect and a relationship of appreciation" with Alba Vergés.

As for the PSC, the announcement made a week ago that places Olga Pané as Minister of Health of a government led by Salvador Illa, was limited to the name and the "symbolism" that, according to the former minister, her election represents: "To put professional public servants in the most relevant areas of the Govern". Pané is the manager of the IMAS, managing director of the Laboratori de Referència de Catalunya and of the society Imatge Mèdica Intercentros, and president of the Fundació Bonanova.

The rest of the parties are less likely to be able to impose their choices and, in fact, most of them run away from the debate. The candidate of Ciudadanos says that "technical profiles are needed, especially in Health", but Carlos Carrizosa only points out who is in his candidacy: "We have Jorge Soler, who is an expert family doctor". From En Comú Podem, Jéssica Albiach already pointed out during the debate on TV3 that she would not play the game of "distributing seats" and that she preferred to focus on the (public) health model that Catalonia should have. A model that is probably very far from what the PDECat defends, although the candidacy headed by Àngels Chacón also remarks that they prioritise police over politicians.

The PP has also not defined who would be its The PP has also not defined who would be their Health Minister and, although they still have an intense debate to decide whether or not they will join the Government, CUP sources do put a name on the table: Laia Estrada, reports Xavi Tedó. The head of the list for Tarragona has a degree in environmental sciences, is a member of the Working Group in Defence of Public Health in Tarragona and is co-author of the book Sortim de l'UCI. Proposta per una sanitat pública (Tigre de Paper). There are four days left until 14-F and several weeks (or months) to shape a government that will place one of its main focuses of attention on the Ministry of Health.