News Report / Profile
Carlos Neves Martins' timeline
We schedule an interview and cancel it due to conflicting agendas. We reschedule it and he makes it clear that he doesn't like to miss his appointments. I arrive on time and, in the corridor where we find the Hospital Chapel, there is a large office dominated by a permanent subliminal agitation that always puts some pressure on those who are not familiar with it. While I wait, I wonder if there is ever a right timing to do an interview, but that would be putting a label on people as if their interest in talking about themselves had some sort of deadline, which is simply not true. Ensuring that everything is meticulously organized, he receives me in his office, where the Board of Directors of the Lisboa Norte University Hospital Centre (CHULN) is based, and the place from where he's been chairing it since 2013 .
He's agitated and I can foresee that we won't have much time. I quickly reorganize my questions. But I'm wrong, because he's saved time for us. He only needed a few seconds to engage in a little introspection and focus solely on the present.
Carlos Neves Martins is the face of the Lisboa Norte University Hospital Centre. Often at the centre of media attention, he doesn't go unnoticed, he tackles everything head on and, despite being a diplomat, he never sugarcoats his opinions. If he genuinely believes in a cause, he doesn't mind taking the risk of paying the price for it. Obstinate, as he defines himself, there's no use trying to change his opinion once he's made up his mind. But who is this man we've heard so much about and still remains at the helm of the largest Hospital Centre in the country?
Passionate about the sea, he was born in Portimão in the summer of 61. Even today, when he speaks in a more relaxed way, we can hear the accent from the Algarve in which he takes great pride. From humble origins, he gave his parents the joy of being the first graduate in the family, yet he didn't fully fulfil their dream, as they wanted him to graduate from law school. His brother, 18 years younger than him, did indeed become a lawyer.
Ever since he was a young boy, when he decides that things should be done in a certain way, he takes full responsibility for them. From the 12 university application fields, he only filled one: the first one, because it was the only one that interested him: International Relations. Maybe that's how he deals with most issues when he believes that something is right, he sticks by it to the end.
He left the warm south and headed for the cold and humid north, choosing the University of Minho to sign the first statements of intent of what would become his future.
Early on in our conversation, he tells me about his DNA to explain a number of reasons that made him who he is today.
International Relations was the way he found to quench his thirst for travelling and open up the doors to a world that couldn't be limited to a single region or country. And since his mother wouldn't let him take the tests to become an Air Force pilot, he became a "flying sailor", spending more time in airports than at home. Diplomacy was becoming one of the strongest aspects of his intervention, allowing him to "travel across" the personality and culture of people.
So, Carlos Neves Martins completed the first higher education course for Diplomats in Portugal, while gaining a perspective on international management.
He was the first student from the Algarve to enrol at the then recently-created University of Minho, and he can't forget that he arrived in Braga on a rainy, ice-cold, foggy night, after a long day of successive journeys in delayed trains. He had rented a room at a widow's house, but his good education, stressed by his parents, had taught him that it was too late to knock on anyone's door. So, he stayed at a boarding house he'd found near the station. He says that the first confrontation with the reality of his new home was not being able to take a shower on that cold December morning; there was no water because it was frozen in the pipes. The second shock came soon after that, as he had a schnitzel sandwich and a bowl of wine for breakfast, imitating what the local customers were eating and drinking.
He doesn't forget the exact date of this arrival, because it has always been attached to another memory, a memory with marks on his DNA. One day after starting his new life, on December 4, 1980, Sá Carneiro died. Despite the fact that the political ties in his family were closer to the left, he soon felt an appetite for social intervention rising. After spending the night at the headquarters of the then PPD (Popular Democratic Party) in Braga and meeting people with whom he has remained friends to this day, he says that he only joined the party a year later, resisting the impulse of the strong emotions of those days of national mourning in December 1980 .
Aliança Universitária Reformadora (Reforming University Alliance) was his first expression of being and doing politics; he joined it to combat the somewhat secluded management of the Academic Association, at a time when the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) had a significant political weight. Carlos, a 1st-year student at the time, got together with a few friends, all from different parties, some of them nonpartisan; the purpose was to change the course of events. After a year of intense campaigning, his list won the elections. He took on several positions before becoming President. In the academic world, he was also President of the Organizing Committee of Queima das Fitas and formed a Tuna, which still exists, among other innovative projects that he helped create and in which he was involved.
He founded the Radio of the Universidade of Minho (RUM). From this period he tells us about the time when he was called for identification by the police authorities, after shutting down the police radio broadcast, in an attempt to broadcast the inaugural newscast of the RUM, which in addition to interfering with the police radio communications, interfered with the neighbours' TVs, precisely when the beloved Brazilian "telenovela" was on (a story he tells laughing). He says that the ladies from Cathedral of Braga quarter looked at him with ironic sympathy for months.
He returned to the Algarve when he was 24 years old, and his first job was at the Polytechnic Institute of Faro. He tells us that he was called by Carlos Lloyd Braga (the former Rector of the University of Minho) and at the time he thought that it would be just to give him some ideas about his region. He was wrong. It would be his first challenge: setting up the Social Services of the Polytechnic Institute of Faro. On that day he realized that age was no obstacle and this principle has been guiding him all his life. But he also realized that when one has many ideas, they only grow if they are put into practice. He also tells us that with Lloyd Braga he learned about the importance of passing on responsibility in a simple way, like asking someone to fill out a blank sheet of paper where there are only a title and the desired result at the end. In addition to being a proof of trust, this simple exercise taught him to learn the importance of responsibility and teamwork, never losing sight of the outcome
His facial expression changes when he takes another leap back in time to talk about the military service, where he served as a Militia Artillery Officer, first at the Practical School of Vendas Novas and later at the Leiria Regiment and Campo de Santa Margarida. He was called up when he was 25, almost becoming a Father and with a promising early career, but he didn't try to avoid his obligation, despite acknowledging that it was a great shock and a major financial loss. But when he walked in through the main gate of the Vendas Novas School he decided that he would become a model soldier and, when he left, he was granted an extensive Commendation as Advanced Observer, Platoon Commander and Operations Officer of the Independent Mixed Brigade Campaign Artillery Unit (NATO).
After the military vehicle in which he was patrolling a mountainous area crashed, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was taken to the Leiria Hospital, the Hospitals of the University of Coimbra (evacuated by helicopter), the Military Hospital of Coimbra, and the Military Hospital of Estrela, where he stayed for weeks. He spent a few months in a coma, and all this just one month away from finishing his military service and when his first child was only 9 months old. Even so, while not wanting to spend too much time thinking about it, he says that it is a phase he remembers with tranquillity, despite its intensity, as it gave him principles, values, teachings and friends for life. The changes that occurred when he left the military service were also very intense. After nearly 3 years away from the labour market, when he returned to the Polytechnic Institute of Faro he no longer had his place. However, he was given a different position by the head of the institution, with whom he had worked directly and who believed in his abilities.
The politician Carlos Neves Martins was yet to make a clear appearance, but the cosmopolitan and academic reality of Braga and his critical social sense were refining his sense of intervention. He ran for the Municipal Assembly at the age of 24, and at 28 he ran for the Portimão City Council. He was a Councillor at the Municipality of Portimão for 12 years, always as leader of the opposition. At 29 he was chosen as President of the Youth Institute, after working as Regional Director for the Algarve for a year. Later on, in the Council of Europe and always travelling between Brussels and Strasbourg, he took up the position of Coordinator of 12 General Directors in the area of Youth, during the first Portuguese presidency of the European Union, in 1991 .
Health would soon enter his sphere of action, as he took up political and coordination duties at the regional level in his home region: the Algarve.
Carlos Neves Martins shows us that we have to work hard to be what we want to be. It was when he was about to give a regional speech about the importance of tourism for the economy of the Algarve, and in the face of real threats of strikes in hospitals and health centres in the summer, that he recognized those responsible for the Regional Health Administration in the audience and decided he should emphasize the role of Health. After stressing the strategic importance of good and reliable health services, in a region so dependent on tourism, he received a standing ovation. Two days later he was called by the Minister of Health. He thought he was going to be reprimanded for his critical and public intervention. He was wrong again. There was a vacancy in the Setting-Up Committee of the future Health Region, and he was challenged to negotiate with the various Trade Unions, to mediate strike situations and to find consensus for lasting social consultation.
Since he's not in the habit of turning his back on challenges, he accepted. A month after undertaking his new mission, he had already managed the crisis with the Trade Unions, creating firm commitments that led to agreements which avoided strikes in the summer and persisted in time.
He admits that he's passionate about "challenging" goals and says that there is always something stimulating and risky in politics, even when there are planning and strategy. It reminds him of poker, which he really enjoyed playing during late-night talks at the university residence, or later on, at the officers' bar on long nights on duty. And just like when you get a royal flush in poker, one sometimes earns trumps in politics. That's what he did to solve the perennial problems related to the construction of the Portimão Hospital and the Faro Nursing School, namely the problem related to the lack of available land. He laughs with pleasure and his eyes sparkle as he remembers a story he promises to tell later.
After 6 months and with the agreement of the then Prime Minister Cavaco Silva, Carlos Neves Martins was invited by the Minister of Health, Paulo Mendo, to be the first President of the newly-created Algarve Health Region, where Health Centres, Public Health and Hospitals answered before the Board of Directors in an innovative way. He was only 32 years old when he took up the position. In his curriculum, we find other positions, such as Coordinator of the External Relations Office of the University of the Algarve, which he always refers to as his professional home. Shortly afterwards, he was elected as Member of Parliament by the Constituency of the Algarve, a position he suspended because he took office in the XV and XVI Constitutional Governments as Secretary of State for Health and Deputy Secretary of State to the Minister of Tourism, in the first and only Ministry of Tourism to date.
He stood out because the accounts he managed in the Algarve were always closed with a positive balance. He says that "Health is not fatefully a cost" and when I ask him if it should be profitable, he answers that it is an "investment" and that it is a pity that there is often no vision for the NHS with this reach and that people don't realize that there is a need for autonomy, in order to improve access, quality and sustainability". He explains, in a short and simple way, his economic and social vision for health and ends by rejecting a financial vision, which is very popular nowadays but has demonstrably damaged the NHS.
His career and his views partly explain why he was chosen as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CHULN in 2013, by the Minister of Health Paulo Macedo; he's still holding this position and has already served six years in office.
When he arrived at the Hospital the average debt was 11 million euros per month. There's still debt, but he's managed to achieve positive results.
Carlos N. Martins: It was a very difficult exercise, but it was possible to demonstrate, in half of these 6 years, that the hospital was sustainable. Currently, the overdue debt is slightly better, because in terms of average payment periods we had debt equal to one year of the budget to get the hospital running. The debt, of course, is still too heavy a burden considering what I believe would be fair to the CHULN's suppliers, partners and "shareholders". But, do you know that it didn't frighten me? I had to think very carefully before accepting this mission, I recognize that it was the position which took me longer to accept. Above all, I asked myself a question, a question that, in fact, I asked myself again when the Government changed, and the question was: "Do I have the personal conditions to lead a credible team and a successful strategy?". The first time I asked this question, in 2013, it took me longer to answer. The second time around it only took me a week to find the answer. From the ten points of the strategy that was in place in 2015, after talking to the Minister of Health Adalberto Campos Fernandes, we only changed one. But it is normal for a successful strategy to remain in place, so the newly-appointed Minister of Health was sensible enough to assess the situation and courageous enough to make that decision. It was this success that led me to accept to continue at the helm of this unique Institution for another 3 years, which ended on 31 December last year.
Then I have to tell you something, particularly because you're studying at the Faculty, which is that we're not just any Hospital Centre. We're a University Hospital Centre, with two Units and a vast and rich history and pages of successful achievements in the service of the country. And since 2013 we've clearly been stating that we are part of the Faculty of Medicine and part of the University of Lisbon. Just yesterday I received another prestigious university to conclude an innovative protocol, but our close relationship with the FMUL is not undermined, even when we strategically fit in other projects led by, or developed together with, other academic families. In this process, as usual, we also assess whether there are negative impacts on our Faculty and, if that is the case, we don't move forward or we try to change the requirements, in order to keep the irreproachable cohesion that we're creating and cultivating between the CHULN and the FMUL untouched..
Let's talk about numbers. If I remember correctly, this being a University Hospital, it invests around 25 million in the training of interns, which is not a negligible amount... Teaching has a different weight here.
Carlos N. Martins: We're talking about two types of investments here: the tangible one and the intangible one. This Institution has had four pillars since its foundation (support to education, training, research, and care). And I added a fifth one, which is organisational innovation. No one values teaching as we do. We're the only Hospital with a Faculty inside it. When we walk across it we find corridors where the Hospital and the Faculty coexist, more and more without the architectural barriers that used to exist and are being gradually destroyed. In 2013, Professor Fernandes e Fernandes and I implemented a shared management model, which has been kept by Professor Fausto Pinto in an exemplary manner. This attitude is probably a result of my academic career. I don't deny that I'm a university man, but it also has a lot to do with the way I see life. I like to look at things and take on challenges, and when they don't exist, I create them or stimulate them, seeking to get my partners involved or get involved in their challenges.
And that's exactly what happened with the Faculty. I respect tradition, I try to honour History and its rules, but that doesn't mean we can't innovate. Thanks to that way of thinking, the Faculty is going to have a fantastic Simulation Centre, it has a Biobank that will grow competitively in partnership with other institutions, we'll have a new Experimental Surgery Centre, which will be part of the CAML (Lisbon Academic Medical Centre) family. In fact, in this regard, I proudly remember that we were the first ones to create an Academic Centre, on October 27, 2009 (which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year); this consortium model has been positively evaluated by the most recent Governments, which have replicated it across the country. We've turned a new page in university hospital teaching, training and research in our country. Once again we were, and still are, primus inter pares.
It's not in vain that the Faculty Director, Professor Fausto Pinto, has been publicly defending it. And he's not the only one; several Clinical Directors of the Hospital, who are also Professors at the Faculty, have also been supporting it. It's a declaration of admiration for the role it plays and for the work that has been done.
Carlos N. Martins: This admiration is mutual. The position taken by Professor Fausto Pinto and his peers was unprecedented in our country. This letter added an even greater responsibility to what is already my way of dealing with these situations of transition, which would not be so pronounced had the letter not existed; furthermore, my added resilience would not have been fostered.
I was in a meeting with the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, when I received the news, directly from Dubai, of the election of Professor Fausto Pinto (President-Elect of the World Hearth Federation). I immediately asked to share the news, because it had to do with us, with our institution, but also because I believed that it was a victory of the Ministry and the country. I'm thrilled by Professor Fausto Pinto's successes, even his individual ones because I see them as our own. Having as Director of the Faculty and Director of the Department of Heart and Blood Vessels someone who is President of the European Society has greatly contributed to our international credibility and notoriety. You know that this attitude and way of acting with strategic proximity was already a characteristic of Professor Fernandes e Fernandes, and it is also a characteristic of Professor Fausto Pinto, but it is renewed and more ambitious now, due to the current context and circumstances. We have a very strong loyalty relationship and institutional interests always win, because they are above our personal points of view or feelings.
Going back to the letter, I can tell you that I said to the Minister of Health that I was already very proud of my Institution, but I was even more when I read that letter, because it wasn't a letter against anyone, with threats or resignations. It was an assertion of our institutional culture, in line with the History and responsibility of this unique Institution, to which I contributed, so it made me feel even happier, particularly at this stage.
Are you preparing to leave?
Carlos N. Martins: No, not at all. I'm here for the day each day, as I've always been since 2013. I'm here today, but I don't know if I'll be here tomorrow. It's been like this since day one, February 21, 2013, and every single day after that... It's a way of living and seeing things, in a natural and relaxed way.
Do you always see life like this, what is true today may not be true tomorrow?
Carlos N. Martins: Exactly... One day at a time. Probably more in the professional sphere than in the personal sphere, at least that's what people tell me. Some people say that I am too much of a strategist and that I tend to overthink. I assess things, I like to take risks, but I always like to have a plan B and a plan C. When I don't have a plan C I feel uncomfortable, but when I don't have a plan B, I feel really uncomfortable. Sometimes I go over everything at night, I think about everything and instead of sleeping 6 or 7 hours, I sleep 4. Today I woke up at 5 a.m. and I had a coffee... I went over the agenda for today and thought about the next days and all the pending issues. But let me go back, to when you asked me whether I was preparing to leave. No, it's just a relaxed way of saying that I'm President of the Hospital Centre for the day each day, because I recognize that this is a high-risk position. I always keep this in mind, without drama or unnecessary anxiety.
It is this notion of risk that makes me who I am and makes me act as I do. This helps explain why I'm so assertive about certain issues and so thorough with others, trying to figure out risks and anticipate problems. This way of living and acting takes time, so it's no coincidence that I come here at night or on weekends. I need time to think, to look at the situations and assess them on my own. (Takes a deep breath) This is something that also exists in politics, the feeling of loneliness, even when we're part of a large team. If I tell you that I've felt alone in a room with 3 thousand people, where I was the leading figure, can you believe me?
Carlos N. Martins: I have many moments of loneliness. There are concerns I have to share, but when there are still only signs of risk, I share them only with a small percentage of fellow leaders. I believe that it is my duty to keep them to myself until these signs become an actual risk or problem; then I will share them and work with a team to anticipate solutions and find clear answers.
But that's the role of the leader, isn't it? He carries the silence and weight of decisions on his shoulders.
Carlos N. Martins: Exactly! But it's not easy. People think it's easy, but it's not easy at all, particularly in a University Hospital Centre like ours.
Do you think that they think it's easy?
Carlos N. Martins: As a general rule, I'd say yes. I think that people believe having power is easy, and that being able to use it is a very good thing.
So, having power gives you status and is not a lot of work, is that what you think they believe?
Carlos N. Martins: Most of the times yes, it's what they believe. But there are things that people are often unaware of. Responsibility, from the legal and financial point of view, lies with the Board and, ultimately, with its Chairman. If there is a problem with a patient and the family makes accusations against the Hospital, the Chairman is called by the courts and the police authorities as the legal representative of the Institution. Even when there's a financial error, the Chairman and the Board are the ones that are charged. Refunds or fines are not paid by the Institution. All this entails a great risk, which is also associated with the media. Have you thought about what it feels like to be publicly accused of someone's death? It's not pleasant, to say the least. I'm going to tell you something; when my mother was seriously ill (she actually passed away shortly afterwards), there was one of those accusations: imagine what it felt like for me to think that she could be seeing the news and hearing that her son was involved in someone's death... It was one of the worst moments of my life. (Emotional). This episode marked a stage of my life and, above all, increased my sense of responsibility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But wait! I still believe that my mission is very stimulating and challenging, but I emphasized this issue so you can really understand what it means to be the President of the CHULN, in situations that are rarely acknowledged and known. It's rewarding to know that many people entrust us with their well-being and their lives. And it's was also rewarding, on a hard day, to read the spontaneous letter of support signed by various Physicians, Professors and Leaders of the institution. It was one of the best moments of my professional life. And my life is filled with moments of happiness and gratitude. I've received praises from the military and society that ennoble me, but this letter was very moving.
Then there are the ethical praises you've received from Hospital patients. But we'll get there in a minute. In this book I hold in my hands - Hepatitis C, The Future Began Here -, which was published on the 64th anniversary of the Hospital, you wrote something that has to do with your DNA. It concerns the clinical trials and the pioneering treatment that the Santa Maria Hospital developed for Hepatitis C. It says: "I'd rather go to trial for breaching the commitment law than to be tried for letting a patient die for bureaucratic or accounting reasons". Is that the weight of your responsibility for others?
Carlos N. Martins: (Stays silent for a while) That reflects my way of looking at the financial and legal risk of managing the CHULN. Since February 21, 2013, I've been saying that we have to fulfil our mission in an irreproachable way. Sometimes, without doing anything illegal, we must have the courage to interpret the law with reason, but also to decide with our heart! Between making a decision that saves someone's life and strictly abiding by the law, we have to choose the only possible decision, with a sense of responsibility and with humanism. We can't do anything illegal, but we can't let someone die or lose their quality of life. There was a highly publicised case involving the purchase of certain medical devices. And I remembered that phrase at the time when I was questioned about that issue. In other words, those who were questioning me thought that I had to abide by the law and that was that. That specific case had to do with the reason why a device was used during the weekend and its purchase was only approved on the following Monday. At a certain point, I realized that I had to give a practical, academic example. After confirming that the father of the person who was questioning me was still alive, I gave a hypothetical example: "Imagine that your Father has a heart attack, to put it simply, at 4 a.m. on a Friday night. You call an ambulance and your Father arrives at the ER at 5 a.m. The team on call decides to act during the window of opportunity, which in these cases lasts only a few hours, but when they ask for the material they discover that your Father is not compatible with the devices in stock. You have two options: the first one is to abide by the law and the patient will wait in the OR until Monday. On Monday, the Head of Department makes a request and the Board approves it. In the meantime, there are two risks: after-effects or death. Then there's a second way. Since our Physicians are responsible and fight to save lives and make sure their patients don't suffer after-effects, they decide to make a call and ask for the appropriate device for your Father. Since they chose to do that, a week later your Father is home and stable. And we brought a citizen back to life for a few more years! And rightly so! But for us, the process doesn't end here, because on Monday following the emergency intervention, the Head of Department is faced with several bureaucratic issues, among which the pending purchase of the device that was used. And the Head of Department approves it, says that he's doing it because one more patient was saved and forwards it to the Clinical Direction for analysis and approval. All according to the appropriate legal procedure. In short, the procedure was approved on a Tuesday and the surgery was performed on Saturday before! And the patient received a device that didn't meet the public procurement requirements in advance. So I ask the person who was questioning me, as a son, how do you think we should deal with your Father's case?" The person in question didn't answer and the interrogation ended at that point. That was how, in 10 minutes and after an interrogation that lasted a whole morning, I was able to explain that no one does certain things deliberately, putatively breaking the law, but that Physicians are merely remaining faithful, as they should, to their oath of good clinical practice, in due time, with quality and the suitable means for diagnosis. Those who don't understand this, don't understand what an end-of-line Hospital is, what its public mission and human dimension is. But that doesn't mean that we're not observing public procurement requirements or the law. Ultimately, it means we don't observe it at the right time, because at the right time we have to save lives!
Let's stay on the book and on the issue of "saving lives". This book has two very interesting testimonials from two patients, Pedro Castro and Luis. Both tell us that on Christmas day they received an e-mail from you saying that you were going to do everything in your reach not to give up on them. They were suffering from Hepatitis C and public financing for treatment had actually been denied to one of them. For someone who is looking at life with an expiration date, this is extremely important.
Carlos N. Martins: I didn't know Pedro or Luis, but at a certain point I became aware that they were suffering from Hepatitis, that their lives were at risk; I knew their names and their stories of struggling to stay alive. I remember that on that Christmas day afternoon my family didn't understand why I wouldn't put my mobile phone down. I took a step back and thought about these patients and how they were spending Christmas. So I decided to send them a message saying "I haven't forgotten you". And I kept my promise and we, the Board of Directors, the Pharmacy Committee and the Physicians, managed to solve the problems of 100 patients! You know, even if I stay for another 3 years, this will probably be the only book with something about my presidency... But I look at the need for this book as a sign of the prestige given by the Santa Maria and Pulido Valente hospitals to Medicine. The two institutions are extremely important in the field of Health, with world-class teams and fantastic professionals. There's an old saying I've been repeating for many years: "Those who have no memory, have no future". We need to have memory to build the future, but that doesn't mean we should rest on the laurels of the past. We should remember what has been achieved, but especially what is yet to be done and that we believe is still possible to achieve.
Would you like to continue for another 3 years leading the CHULN?
Carlos N. Martins: There is obviously life beyond the CHULN, but I repeat that it will forever remain in my heart. But, of course, I hope to do, and I want to do, other things throughout my timeline. I acknowledge that the Institution takes a lot of my personal time and entails many risks. But I'll give you a direct answer to your question. I had mentally considered that 3 terms of office (9 years) would be the ideal time to set the Institution on the path towards success and a comprehensive and sustained renewal. Also to keep in line with what I always said when people compared us with the São João Hospital, which is a reference for us in terms of results and to work even better (laughs). But people can only make a fair comparison between us and São João once we go through a similar period of management stability, with no changes in the presidency or the Board of Directors. I'd like to recall that Professor António Ferreira led the São João Hospital between 2005 and 2015 and that we had 3 Presidents during that period. I'd also like to recall that between 2003 and2005 we had 3 Presidents, an average of 1 each year... In other words, in 15 years the São João Hospital had 2 Presidents and we had 6... and mine is the longest term of office yet... Professor António Ferreira didn't get good results in the short term, but in the long term, because there was a firm change in direction, structuring decisions and stability to implement them, carrying out, assessing and correcting a number of management-related measures over time. And I've always said, "give us time and we'll get there". We've managed to close our 4th and 5th years with a positive Net Income and Ebitda (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) and we've managed to get our applications for community funds to be approved again. A number of signs have been appearing that have to do with stable leadership. But it is important to tell you that my staying another 3 years also depends a lot on my will and I will not stay at any price! I will only stay if I have conditions for governing and if I feel able to lead the Institution with consistency and ambition. And if I have the notion that I will be able to continue making changes with a wide public reach. If I reach that conclusion, then there's a chance of staying. There's a funny and important coincidence in this period. If I continue leading the CHULN, this period will coincide with the 3 years of the second term of office of Professor Fausto Pinto, and that will allow me to continue following an interesting and consistent strategy, which we both share and defend. Now, do I know what the future holds for me? The future belongs to God! My only concern right now is the nearly 6,000 to 7,500 patients we receive each day and the 6,500 employees who depend on a consistent and active leadership and Board of Directors. Lastly, I have to find 1,5 million euros every day to ensure that I can govern this institution with some degree of tranquillity, and that's not easy nowadays.
I've read several texts you've written on your pages and you mention your timeline a lot. What is your timeline? What does your timeline tell you?
Carlos N. Martins: (Laughs out loud, then stops, sighs and remains silent for a while) In our conversation, which has lasted a little over an hour, we've looked at several episodes and significant moments of my timeline. I'd have many more to tell you, namely from a personal point of view. We went back in time nearly 4 decades... (Sighs) What's my timeline? I hope I can look at my timeline for at least another43 years and reach 100. In those 100 years, I want to have half my timeline to do things. That's what I want it to tell me! Because from the physical point of view I feel like I'm 40 years old, I have the same ability to work and to spend a week sleeping 4 hours a night as I did then. I hope I can do a lot in the next 10 / 15 years. Then I hope I can share my knowledge and do things better, spending less time on each task. I hope to enjoy a peaceful retirement. I don't know if I'll get a pension then (laughs), but at least I hope I can live with quality and health from 80 to 100. After turning 100 we'll see. But I'll definitely get to 100! So I hope that my timeline is still destined to leave marks and do things. That the next phase will prepare me for a stage of my life which will have more quality and less quantity. I hope to become less irreverent and less unsatisfied after turning 75. I hope that time, my timeline, will turn me into a more relaxed, happier person. But for now I like to and I need to work to feel happy!
Carlos Neves Martins says he's President on Thursdays when the Board of Directors meets, and that on the other days of the week he's merely the leader of a large team.
He listens when people talk to him but also when they say nothing and he says that sometimes he might seem distant, or distracted, but he's "reading" what is written and also what is between the lines. With a sixth sense, he says he doesn't have a crystal ball but that his experience accounts for his certainties. "Convince me otherwise, because when I believe I'll achieve something, I forge ahead".
Always unsatisfied, he emphasizes that this doesn't mean he's unhappy. Only that when he believes in something, he continues to strive until he achieves it. Despite the fact that his only dream was to become Chairman of the City Council of this home town, a dream that didn't come true, he acknowledges that his timeline is no longer chasing that dream.
He mentioned Sá Carneiro several times during our conversation and quoted him: "Those who have power and don't exercise it, don't deserve it."
He reformulated the quote and adopted it as a motto for his life, without false modesty or the fear of being misinterpreted. Carlos Neves Martins is his own man. "He admits that he likes power but, above all, he likes to exercise it for the common good, with far-reaching results and, most importantly, he likes to earn it". That's why he says that he's a happy man and that he usually smiles at the end of the day when he remembers how he used that power; a smile that often has many faces and names, but appears on the leader's face in one of his many moments of loneliness...
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Image Credits: HSM Communication Office and Dr. Carlos Neves Martins