In the Basque Country, public health services are provided on the basis of a system of a regional organisation divided into healthcare districts. Under that system, patients are served by a particular hospital -the “hospital of reference”- located in the corresponding healthcare district.
In that context, a public procurement procedure was initiated to award two contracts for the management of specific medical care services: one for patients having the public hospital of Basurto as hospital of reference, and another for those patients having the public hospital of Galdakao as hospital of reference. The technical specifications of both contracts indicated that one of the basic requirements for all tendering healthcare centres was that they should be located in the municipality of Bilbao, in order to ensure the proximity and accessibility of the establishment and in the interests of patients, their families and medical personnel.
Unjustified obstacle to competition
A private hospital located in the municipality of Erandio, which satisfied all of the technical specifications laid down in the invitation to tender (except for the location), challenged both tender procedures. It argued that requiring the healthcare centre to be located in Bilbao was contrary to the principles of equal treatment, freedom of access to public procurement procedures and free competition.