Country-to-country visit: from a personal point of view

My alarm clock rings. I take my suitcase and board the plane to Madrid. I am exited after so much time preparing proposals and forms - this is the real work, we are finally visiting Spain and have four days to learn about how they are handling antibiotic resistance! I am also a bit nervous; my reference is some European documents and my own experience from the Netherlands. Will I be able to think outside the Dutch box, and will I truly be able to understand all the policy dilemmas of such a complex problem?

My nerves disappear as soon as I enter the room of the Spanish Medicines Agency a few hours later. I see familiar faces from international meetings accompanied by a huge Spanish delegation of colleagues. I can not wait to hear all their stories. We discuss on the Spanish action plan, on the Dutch experiences, we apologize to each other for asking so many questions and taking so much time, and find ourselves hopelessly behind schedule but satisfied with being able to discuss and learn from each other all afternoon. We use hand and feet to order nice Spanish food and wine and digest all the impressions of the day.

My alarm clock rings. So early. So many kilometers in the train and bus to Toledo. So many pigs. One vegetarian in the group wants to take them all home. So much to learn from the local vet explaining how she experiences veterinary policy on amr and puts it into practice in the farm. Coffee break - wow so much food! Another transfer. So many chickens! So many questions from all te Dutch participants on the challenges and on the reduction of antibiotics already achieved. Start to get a feel for the Spanish situation.

Alarm clock rings. So early. Even more kilometers in a fancy high speed train. Next stop Alicante University Hospital. A room full and white coats keep coming in. We start with a presentation of a Dutch expert on antibiotic stewardship and an inspector on supervision and enforcement. We learn about the best practices of this Region, discuss a lot, and find we do a lot alike and think about next steps in similar ways. After yet another delicious Spanish meal the super enthusiastic microbiologist shows us around the lab and I still hear him repeat in the back of my head: “look, look, we have all the new machines!”. We absorb some last warm sun on the platform before we really need to board the train back to Madrid. Gives us time to ask the last unanswered questions from the list we prepared back home. Now I think I am indeed able to understand how it works Spain.

Alarm clock rings. Not so early. My colleague wants to thank the organizers for the amazing experience in Spanish and asks the taxi driver in advance if she pronounces Google translate correctly. We share impressions and present feedback to each other. Curious? Check our report coming soon!

Back in plane to the flat lands. Writing a blog and smile over the memories I write down. No alarm clock tomorrow. Only happy kids to wake me up.

Maria le Grand | Ministry of Health | The Netherlands