Bogotá, 4 May 2020 – The Australia-Colombia Business Council (ACBC) interviewed Paola Delgado, one of our Board Members and Colombia Business Manager at Cochlear, to share her story with our community.
Cochlear is one of the Australian companies in Colombia’s health sector that are in the exception to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. The company is a world leader in hearing implants for people with mid, moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. At this time, they move between the office and the clinic to see their patients about three times a week, changing the usual care and service protocol.
Paola Delgado, Cochlear’s general manager for Colombia, says they are looking for “ways to reinvent themselves at this time of coronavirus”. We are a company that opened our doors of direct operation in the country more than a year ago. We have a commercial house that is operating in a country where many hearing needs can be met. In the last year we have grown by 50% compared to last year. I’ve been taking on this challenge for four years now.”
Paola is a lawyer graduated in Bogota with family mostly from this city, except for some grandparents from Neiva, Cucuta and Popayan. As a child she lived in Barranquilla for a few years and then returned to the capital. She specialized in corporate and commercial law and has a broad vocation for helping people. Social service has been present throughout her life and is now present in her work.
“Our patients are our reason for existence. Helping a person regain a sense of purpose is indescribable. I think people saying thank you and listening to their stories has been very inspiring. We are now supporting all maximum emergency quarantine cases.”
There are 20 people working at Cochlear Colombia and it is divided into five areas: patient support area, commercial area, clinical area, financial area and accounting and marketing area. The first is composed of two psychologists, who provide psychosocial support, they connect stories and people, tell them about the process and verify the process of approval for the hearing aid by the EPS. In the clinical area, we work with the support of speech therapists with sub-specialization in audiology and have allies throughout the country for the rehabilitation of the patient.
At the moment, they are in the process of being qualified as IPS (Instituto Prestador de Salud) in Colombia, it means, they will be able to provide health services directly to their patients.” We have contracts with EPS at a national level, if a patient requires it, they request it from the health system and the surgery is done for the implant. Then we have the post-sale handling that has to do with the accessories, the guarantee of the device and very close accompaniment with each patient”; mentions Paola.
Paola married and went to live in the United States for 12 years, including the cities of San Diego and Miami during this time. She worked at Caterpillar and specialized in comparative law (the study of the two global legal systems in force). It is during this time that she became passionate about organizational processes. However, for family reasons, such as raising her children in her home country, she decided to return to Colombia nine years ago.
On her arrival she started working in the construction sector where she lasted five years. “I’d always been on the legal side, and I wanted to be something more related to the whole business”.
It was at this point in her career that Cochlear hired her as the Business Manager for distribution in Colombia in order to analyze the market and business model in Colombia. It was their first time in the health sector and that the company would take a big step in Latin America, soon they decided to enter into direct operation in the country.
From Australia, they thought of Paola as the person who should take over the operation: “I had very valuable skills from the legal side, but in the assembly part of the operation it was a vote of confidence that they put in me, and that involved a lot of professional and personal growth. I wouldn’t know if I’d wanted to go back to the legal part only, because now I can see the business as a whole.”
She’s very passionate about what she’s done in life. However, she has been a person who has developed her human side: “Nothing fills your heart, soul and life more than helping others. It’s very enriching to do social work while you work, it’s like a dream. My job has a spectacular mission that moves me.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge for Cochlear in COVID-19?
“The balance between making sure we get out and protecting our staff and serving our patients who require emergency help, we don’t want to expose anyone to getting the virus. It’s an emergency if it’s a child, because if they don’t get the implant, they won’t be able to acquire language after a while.
People may also be left without the ability to hear if they get meningitis, whether they are children or adults, because the hearing organ or cochlea becomes like a stone and the device cannot be surgically implanted. If you can’t do the surgery, you won’t be able to hear. It is also an emergency if your sound processor is damaged. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to have a balance between security and support. A health professional has to support our patients, and we have to support our emergency cases.”
And. . . Australia?
“I didn’t know much about Australia, I saw it too far away. Australians are amazing people, they value ideas and are very supportive. Despite the great distance, I can pick up the phone, call and they’re always there. In Cochlear they had a great vote of confidence, in me, and in the team here in Colombia. I think it’s really nice and amazing. My children were born in the United States, but I want them to go to school in Australia one day.
The accompaniment of the Australian Embassy in Colombia is unconditional, they have been very close people, especially Said Metwalli and Sophie Davies, the Australian Ambassador in Colombia and Venezuela. They were involved in the whole process of Cochlear’s entry into Colombia, and at this time the Ambassador asked me to attend and be part of the Australia Colombia Business Council.”
She is a proud member of the Australia Colombia Business Council and wants to work harder to help Australian companies to discover Colombia. Paola is going to be one of the hosts in our next virtual event about health.