5 October, 2022

The State of Medicine in Bolivia and how it is facing the COVID-19 pandemic

Ilustrative Photo: Milagro Orellana.
By Juan Carlos Rodas Del Castillo – Analyst

Governments in Bolivia almost never gave real importance to health, has been mainly worse these last fourteen years, they postponed it once again for ideological-political interests, this time, of the Movement to Socialism (BUT), led by Evo Morales (2006 – 2019).

In the Morales era, as never before, the Bolivian doctor was disparaged only with the intention of praising the Cuban doctor with the aim of facilitating their arrival based on ideological ties, however, more than coming to support the health system, they came to do activism work, political indoctrination and espionage to aid ideological-political purposes of the MAS government.

Health in Bolivia suffers a very marked neglect in infrastructure and equipment in hospital centers. The premeditated lack of support for Bolivian doctors and health personnel, which was reflected in the lack of willingness to provide them with items or permanent jobs, they preferred to hire them temporarily, a large part of them did not have previous contracts renewed to face this second pandemic wave of COVID-19 that the South American country is experiencing, due to the shortage of medical and health personnel in hospitals, resulting in high infections and collapsed hospital centers due to lack of Intensive Care Units (UTI), acute shortage of beds, At the end of this column, one hundred doctors have died from the virus, not counting health support personnel also dead.

In all tertiary hospitals in the country, exist 430 beds with Intensive Therapy Units (UTI) with their respective teams, these beds are fully occupied, there are infected people waiting for a bed to be vacated for "some reason". According to WHO standards, based on population quantity, is required at least 1.150 ICU beds, according to a report by the Bolivian Society of Critical Medicine and Intensive Care, medical colleges insist on the urgent hiring of medical personnel that does exist in the trans-Andean country, the rigid quarantine declaration to stop the advance of this evil, the government's response is, that the population must "endure" until the vaccines arrive, giving greater importance to maintaining the economy. A high percentage of the population asks that the electoral fair for governorates and municipalities scheduled for the beginning of March be postponed.

In full second escalation of Covid-19, hospitals collapsed due to the large number of hospitalizations, shortage of doctors and staff, the country's hospitals are not fully functional, since they still do not renew at least 5.000 health personnel contracts that were held during the first wave, because there is no budget item in the Unified Health System (THEIR) to solve this issue, the Government tries to modify the norm to hire at least 4.500 professionals and health workers for the whole country, This has not yet been resolved, and there is a population susceptibility that is a pretext for hiring Cuban "doctors", that from past experience, few are qualified, the most do political indoctrination, and they were expelled from several countries for this fact. An island doctor cost the country about $ 4,000 a month as opposed to the $ 800 a Bolivian doctor costs, This fact in the Evo era unleashed great friction and protests between the government and the country's medical groups, until in December of 2019 They were expelled.

Some departments are more than 40 days without health personnel and other regions 13 days. This problem occurs because the past 31 December concluded the contract of these professionals.

The population perceives that the current president Arce is not doing much to stop the wave of infections and deaths, various medical and scientific societies of La Paz, determined to require the Government, implement rigid quarantine, suspension of sub-national elections and threat to suspend attention to the population if they are not heard in the Andean country, compounding the problem. The staff of the Institute of Forensic Investigations, since January 1, it has been raised throughout the country 144 corpses with Covid-19 or suspected of carrying the virus, the largest amount of these bodies was reported in the cities of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, being the majority of the corpses reported in homes and public roads, in almost all cases there were respiratory complications.

The president of the Scientific Committee of the Medical College of La Paz, Ricardo Landívar, points: "It is the last straw that hospitals are working at half machine due to lack of human resources", he said annoyed. The government opposes declaring a health emergency, doctors warn against making such a statement, they will suspend the attention to the population to protect the lives of health professionals.

The highest peak of infections is expected to arrive in mid-February and the population feels very uneasy feeling helpless, Claims for greater government attention. There are already six deaths of candidates for the next subnational elections 7 March due to the virus. The population feels the only hope of the arrival of vaccines, however, has some mistrust about the effectiveness of the Russian vaccine.