Health Crisis Provokes Protests in Medellín, Colombia

Image shared by the collective Somos14más1 on Twitter.

Image shared by the collective Somos14más1 on Twitter.

Demonstrators gathered in front of hospitals and health centers in the Colombian city of Medellín last week, on May 19, trying to pressure the authorities into addressing persistent and pervasive shortcomings in the local healthcare system.

More protests to bring attention to the health crisis, hospitals have no way of attending to patients without resources

Problems with healthcare in Medellín are unfortunately nothing terribly new. Five years ago, one blog traced today's most pressing healthcare issues back to the government of Álvaro Uribe:

Después de las desastrosas medidas tomadas durante el gobierno anterior, la salud se transformó en un negocio, por lo cual nos encontramos con que las entidades encargadas de la salud en Colombia sólo piensan en un beneficio económico, olvidándose que su trabajo principal es salvar vidas no recibir y provocar tutelas.

After the disastrous measures taken during the previous government, healthcare transformed into a business, such that the entities in charge of healthcare in Colombia only think of economic gains, forgetting that their main work is to save lives, not receive and induce admissions.

The blog PROESA highlighted two of the fundamental problems with the health system:

  • Represamiento del flujo de fondos, lo cual a su vez trae dificultades para la oportuna prestación de los servicios.
  • Insuficiente transparencia y rendición de cuentas por parte de las entidades del sector.

•  Reduced flow of funds, which in turn brings difficulties for the timely provision of services.
•  Insufficient transparency and accountability on the part of entities within the [healthcare] sector.

Many of the demonstrators last week shared on social media their reasons for attending the protest. Catalina Valencia, for example, said she turned out to support people's right to health:

Image: Without health, prosperity for all is a LIE!
Tweet: Success We Are 14+1. 30 Minutes For Healthcare. Healthcare Crisis

While patients have suffered the brunt of the crisis, healthcare facilities in Medellín and throughout the Antioquia region have faced challenges of their own—particularly the large and mounting debts owed by hospitals and clinics to the Entidades Promotoras de Salud (the Healthcare Promoting Entities) and the state, which has contributed to the deterioration of local response capacities.

Consequences of the lack of timely payments:
Crashes in the emergency network.
Closure of services and hospital beds.
Failure to pay suppliers and employees.
Difficulty relying on medicines and supplies that allow service delivery to patients.

Sit-in: Healthcare continues mourning
Thursday, May 19
From 8:00 am

Tweet: We know the consequences of failing to make timely payments to institutions.

The organizing force behind these healthcare demonstrations was the collective Somos 14 más 1 (“We Are 14 Plus 1”), and it helped promote the event on Twitter, using the hashtags #CrisisDeLaSalud (“#HealthcareCrisis”) and #30MinutosPorLaSalud (“#30MinutesForHealthcare”).

#30MinutesForHealthcare The [Healthcare Promoting Entities] owes us 1.7 billion pesos. Where are the resources for health?

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