MSF alert to the lack of essential medicines and medical supplies in Argentina
21 November 2002
If the matter of access to drugs is not immediately addressed, it will mean that nearly 40% of the population will be excluded from the system, without access to health. The cost for Argentinian society will be impossibly high.
Barcelona - As a result of the economic collapse in Argentina, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is monitoring the medical and social situation in the country. The organization has confirmed widespread shortages in health facilities throughout the country.
The Argentinian health system is today the paradigm of the collapse of the economy. The most visible consequence is the almost total lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care and hospital treatment levels, and the exclusion of a large proportion of the Argentinian population. The system cannot cope with the demand. The few drugs available are the most expensive in Latin America.
The current situation is brutal and untenable. The public health system used to provide care for 20?0% of the population; today, it is trying to attend to up to 60?0%. Hospitals are working beyond their capacity. Health structures have seen the demand rising and they are left without basic supplies.
MSF has started a program of provisioning of basic medical supplies in two hospitals in the Jujuy and Salta provinces, in the North of Argentina, traditionally the most disadvantages areas.
"This shortage is worsened by the fact that, due to the crisis, people who used to be covered by private medical insurance have been excluded from them from one day to the next," says Rafael Sotoca, medical coordinator of the Argentina project. "They are now completely dependent on the public health system."
The main objective of the program is to cover needs in terms of essential medicines and basic supplies at these two hospitals. At the same time, the MSF team is lobbying the Argentinian authorities to urgently tackle the problem of access to healthcare in the country.
Despite efforts by the Ministry of Health, the measures taken are clearly insufficient to confront a crisis that has left 10 million people without access to drugs.
"If the matter of access to drugs is not immediately addressed, it will mean that nearly 40% of the population will be excluded from the system, without access to health," says Sotoca. "The cost for Argentinian society will be impossibly high."
MSF believes that the Argentinian Government should give urgent attention to the problem of access to healthcare and not allow multilateral funding sources to prioritize the market logic of cost benefit over the public interest. What it is needed now is a clear political will to act as quickly as possible.