Investing in the organisation
With Sanquin’s ‘everything under one roof’ structure, each division can develop optimally while creating synergy with other divisions. The whole is therefore greater than the sum of its parts. This structure needed a few adjustments in 2015. Consequently, two new board members joined the team, and Sanquin signed a new collective labour agreement.
Karel de Buijzer, Director of FNV Zorg & Welzijn (the Dutch Trade Union Confederation for the care and welfare sector). “The collective labour agreement negotiations got off to a difficult start, but the result is something all parties can support. Sanquin has a good reputation for blood supply, which I feel is a strength of the organisation. The Board also has the will to modernise and devotes a great deal of attention to employee development. But it is still a little too administrative at times. It would be good if individual employees were given greater personal responsibility throughout the organisation.”
New board members
The Sanquin Executive Board reached full strength on 1 September 2015 when Dirk Jan van den Berg and Peter de Geus joined its ranks. Dirk Jan van den Berg (61) replaced the interim Chairman of the Executive Board Maarten le Clercq, and has ample high-level governance experience, including chairing the Executive Board of the TU Delft, and as the Dutch Ambassador to China and Mongolia. Van den Berg’s mandate is to develop Sanquin’s future strategy, and to elaborate the risk separation between the organisation’s public and private divisions.
Pieter de Geus (58) joined as a member of the Executive Board, taking over the Sanquin Plasma Products portfolio, where he is also a Statutory Director. He has a great deal of international management and governance experience in the (bio)pharmaceutical industry, including a position as Vice President Corporate Development and Strategy with DSM and Patheon.
Sanquin’s legal structure
In 2012, the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport informed the Speaker of the House of Representatives that she wanted Sanquin to “implement measures to ensure the blood bank's equity was not risk-bearing for the company’s private activities, and vice versa.” In response, Sanquin proposed structural changes in mid-2013; these addressed both the Minister’s request and its own wishes regarding Sanquin’s further development. An important first step in developing the desired legal structure was taken in April 2015 when the entire Plasma Products division was separated and brought under the corporate umbrella of Sanquin Plasma Products BV. Sanquin and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport discussed the structure and, in particular, the integration of Sanquin’s legal tasks within the planned new structure in 2015. The ‘everything under one roof’ principle’ remains a condition for Sanquin’s success, and a clear structure must safeguard this in the years to come.Nothing is to change for donors, patients and treatment professionals. Sanquin will continue to be a not-for-profit organisation with the mission to help save lives or improve patient health. We are constantly aware of our responsibility to donors to use their donations carefully, responsibly and effectively. Donors continue to donate blood and plasma voluntarily through the Blood Bank. As it did before, Sanquin Plasma Products BV buys plasma from the Blood Bank division at market prices, based on a budget approved by the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. The manufactured medicines are then sold at competitive prices in the Netherlands, with any surplus being sold on the international market.
Sanquin consists of five divisions: Blood Bank, Plasma Products, Diagnostic Services, Research and Reagents, and one business unit, Tissues & Cells. The Plasma Products division was incorporated as a private limited company at the start of 2015. The executive support staff provide support to both the divisions and the Executive Board. Sanquin has a Supervisory Board, which supervises the policies of the Executive Board and the general course of affairs within the entire Sanquin group. The Executive Board manages Sanquin and its subsidiaries. Since 2008, Sanquin has also held a 50.01% interest in the Belgian Central Fractionation Unit of the Red Cross CVBA (CAF-DCF). This enterprise (a cooperative company with limited liability) operates a fractionation plant in Belgium. Sanquin increased its interest in CAF-DCF to 100% in 2015. Sanquin Oy is a Finnish subsidiary (100%) that maintains contacts with Finnish customers in Finland.
Collective labour agreement
Sanquin largely bases its own collective labour agreement on the hospital labour agreement, and was prepared for a new agreement in 2015. Negotiations with unions on adopting or modifying points from the hospital labour agreement and the addition of any Sanquin-specific regulations took longer than usual in 2015. Sanquin wished to modernise the new collective labour agreement to address certain social trends, such as the ageing population and an increased pension age. Furthermore, we no longer wanted to mirror hospital salary growth due to our own financial situation. This required a great deal of additional negotiation, and led to a signature-collecting initiative among Sanquin staff, among other things.
The CNV and FNV unions reached an agreement in principle with Sanquin in September. The new collective labour agreement includes realistic salary growth, room for modernisation, and abundant possibilities for training and sustainable deployability. The new agreement is valid until 1 January 2017. Employees will receive a total pay increase of 3% during this time.
R&D Plasma Products reorganisation
The Research & Development division in Sanquin Plasma Products has been reduced to a supporting division for the plasma manufacturing operations core short term needs. Examples include supporting the product optimisation process and life-cycle management. At the same time, taking account of the strategic requirements of the Plasma division in the long term, Sanquin is studying (the need for) future product innovations, and how this activity can be performed in a new and effective manner.
The Blood Bank and Diagnostic Services divisions conducted the three-yearly customer survey in September, focusing on implementing optimal improvements and tailoring services to customer demands wherever possible. The National Satisfaction Index was used as a benchmark. The survey showed that Sanquin’s customers deem it a stable organisation; an organisation they regard as reliable and professional. The feedback received will be implemented within the organisation in 2016.
Sustainability by extracting winter cold out of drinking water
Amsterdam’s drinking water is rather cold in winter, and this temperature can be put to good use. Amsterdam’s water utility Waternet and Sanquin therefore decided to build a storage installation to extract and collect the cold out of the water. Subsequently, Sanquin can use this to cool both clean rooms (sterile rooms) and its manufacturing processes. A declaration of intent to this effect was signed on 3 November.
In winter, the water utility runs the water through a heat exchanger, where the cold is extracted from it. Sanquin can use part of this cold immediately, with the rest stored in the ground for summer use. This results in 100% sustainable refrigeration for Sanquin, while Waternet customers receive slightly warmer water. Other than for flushing toilets, a lot of water is used for showering. The slightly higher temperature means less gas is required to heat it to the right temperature.
The supply of cold to Sanquin should result in an annual savings of 1,100 tons of CO2, comparable to the annual power consumption of 1,800 households. Should the system work well, it can be expanded by the addition of a second heat exchanger. This is the first time a water utility in the Netherlands has supplied something other than just water – in this case cold.
Belgian plasma medicine supply
The Belgian organisation CAF-DCF processes part of the plasma Sanquin requires for manufacturing the medicine Cinryze for example. CAF-DCF also fractions Belgian plasma, which third parties (including Sanquin) then process into medicines for the Belgian market. Sanquin increased its interest in CAF-DCF to 100% in 2015.
Sanquin has been working with six hospitals in the Amsterdam and Flevoland regions since 2014, to create a joint laboratory representing four specialities: clinical chemistry, immunohaematology, medical microbiology and pathology. The patient testing performed by Sanquin’s Diagnostic Services division will be transferred to the joint laboratory once plans have been implemented. The joint venture initiative is based on the conviction that high-quality diagnostic services can only be offered cost-effectively in the future if knowledge and infrastructure is shared. However this planned collaboration faced delays in 2015.
A decision to scrap the original design for the collaborative venture was taken in the spring of 2016. Despite extensive meetings, the parties involved could not agree on the controlling interests of various alliance partners within the new company. Nevertheless the collaboration that had already developed in the field will continue. Sanquin is also seeking out new forms of cooperation. In the meantime, the Diagnostic Services division has managed to achieve a great deal in terms of quality, efficiency and cooperation. These developments have contributed to an improvement in the financial results of the diagnostic activities.