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News > Latin America

Argentines Protest Changes, Cuts to Health Ministry in Gov't Austerity Package

  • Argentines protest new austerity measures that affect public health care.

    Argentines protest new austerity measures that affect public health care. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 September 2018

Argentina's Health Ministry was downgraded to a secretariat by the president. Medical staff and patients fear service will become worst.

Thousands of Argentines protested Wednesday against the decision announced by President Mauricio Macri to fuse the Ministries of Health and Social Development, transforming it into a secretariat. Thousands participated in a symbolic "embrace" of the building where the former ministry operated.

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Doctors, medical associations and organizations, political groups, and users of Argentina’s public health care system gathered for the Movement for the Right to Health by surrounding the building where the former Health Ministry operated to protest President Mauricio Macri’s decision to downgrade the ministry to a secretariat and to warn of the dangers of the funding cut.

On Monday, Macri addressed the nation in a televised statement to explain the austerity measures to reduce the fiscal deficit. Eight ministries, including the Science and Technology Ministry and Culture Ministry, were either eliminated or fused with others.

A delegation of protesters was welcomed by some legislators, who listened to their demands and concerns. 

Fernanda Raverta, a legislator of the Front for Victory Party, argued that “despite what they (the government) are saying, this clearly means the elimination of the nation’s health ministry and this only happened during two dictatorships, when it was transferred to Social Assistance and later Social Welfare.”

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The health minister under the government of Cristina Fernandez, Gines Gonzalez, said austerity within the national health care system is not new and accused Macri of “watering down the budget every year. There is a shortage of medicine, vaccines and medical supplies.”

Noemi Alemany, leader of the Union Federation of Health Professionals of the Argentine Republic (Fesprosa, its Spanish acronym) told local newspaper Pagina 12 Macri’s decision will have “grave consequences for many provinces, and as a result of the budget cuts to several programs will have problems in the provision of medicine. It will negatively affect reproductive health, HIV patients, and illness prevention, especially in the northern part of the country.”

Former Health Minister Daniel Gollan said “the ministry will continue shrinking and transferring responsibilities to the provinces … We saw this already in the 90s when we were betting for co-participation, and they didn’t even send a fifth part (of the necessary resources).”

The conflicts unleashed by the government’s austerity policies in health have also led to a 24-hour medical strike for better wages. Around 80 hospitals in the province of Buenos Aires are not providing medical attention, and Fesprosa announced a 48-hour strike for next week.  

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