Another healthcare system failure

Isabel Keppler, LSR (CWI Brazil)

The devastating outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Americas, just six months before the Olympic Games in Brazil, has once again exposed the failings of governments and the big pharmaceutical companies to protect public health.

On 28 October 2015 the Ministry of Health in Brazil confirmed a causal relationship between Zika and microcephaly. Pernambuco state, in the northeast, after registering over 500 cases, declared a state of emergency due to diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito – not just Zika, but also dengue and chikungunya.

Cases of dengue also increased drastically this year – by 176%! At the beginning of 2015, in São Paulo, when the ’hydric collapse’ (water supply crisis) suddenly hit, occurrences of dengue increased 57%.

There’s little information about whether Zika is solely responsible for the cases of microcephaly. It is therefore vital to invest in research quickly.

With the arrival of summer, cases of dengue began to appear. It’s necessary to fight the proliferation of Aedes aegypti, and to improve sanitation – requiring new public expenditure.

Budget cuts

However, last year’s budget cuts of almost 70 billion reals have adversely impacted on healthcare, education and city councils. Servicing the national debt – by filling the pockets of the bankers – costs 13 times the healthcare budget, for example.

A director for the Ministry of Health, Claudio Maierovitch, declared that the best prevention at the moment was to avoid pregnancies! Even with the ministry declaring that the statement doesn’t represent the institution, it might as well do so. After all, the measures applied so far to eradicate mosquito-spread diseases are a joke.

Even before the Zika outbreak the SUS (Unified Health System) was failing communities, with pregnant women not being properly cared for.

No joke

The population needs to get organised and show the ruling class that healthcare is not a joke.

We demand an intensive information campaign is made among the population. The government must guarantee that the mainstream media spreads correct information on how to differentiate the symptoms of each virus, orienting to prevention, and what to do in suspected cases of any of these diseases.

We also immediately need more health workers, as well as kits with quick diagnostic tests, not only in the units of the SUS but also distributed in more remote areas.

This epidemic points to the urgent need for people to demonstrate in large numbers against the cuts of President Dilma and Finance Minister Levy. We need more investment in health. No more profits to the bankers and bosses! No more salary rises and privileges to the politicians!