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By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Public health care in the State of Rio de Janeiro is still in a crisis, and now officials are warning that they are not prepared to serve the millions of tourists who will come for the Olympics this year. Although the Brazil Health Ministry created a crisis cabinet and announced sending R$45 million in aid, state authorities say it is not enough and plan to take legal action.

Brazil Minister of Health, Alberto Beltrame, Rio hospitals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Brazil Minister of Health, Alberto Beltrame, meeting with Rio state health officials last week, photo by Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil.

On Tuesday (January 11th) the leaders of the Regional Council of Medicine of Rio de Janeiro State (CREMERJ) and the Union of Doctors of Rio de Janeiro (SINDMED/RJ) held a new conference to speak to the press.

“Today there is a bankruptcy declared in the public health sector, and we need to stop a cycle of impunity in the health of Rio de Janeiro,” said union president Jorge Darze. He said SINDMED/RJ will file a lawsuit against the state government for the crime of responsibility for the current situation of health in Rio.

“Foreigners who come to the Olympics need to know that if they get sick, they will find it difficult to get care and they will find a very serious situation. We fear that there [may be] deaths due to this problem and doctors can not be blamed for it,” he added.

On December 23rd, the governor of Rio, Luiz Fernando “Pezão”, decreed a state of emergency in the health system. A few days later, the Ministry of Health has created a crisis cabinet and announced sending of R $45 million to the Rio de Janeiro government to ease the crisis in health.

This is not enough for the vice president of CREMERJ, Nelson Nahon, who said one of the reasons for the failure of public health in Rio de Janeiro is the management model adopted in the public system of Organizações Sociais (Social Organizations, or OSs), which he said is expensive, ineffective and unethical.

“The Court of Auditors [of the city] evaluated twelve contracts nine OSs and found irregularities of R$80 million,” he said. He said the state now faces a deficit of about 150 beds daily. “And when it comes to oncology, in Rio, the line is about 600 patients a day. Die people all day in Rio de Janeiro for lack of conditions in hospitals,” he said.

Wilson Hsu, an American expatriate living in Rio for seven years shared his concern about the public health options here, “I feel that a local pharmacy has more drugs then a public hospital and I have no confidence in going to one due to what I have heard and seen on the news.”

Hsu has sought medical attention several times since he has been living in Rio and opted for private health care services. When comparing it to the United States, he said “as for the private heath care I feel its about the same [as in the U.S.], expensive.”

The Games will open on August 5, 2016 and run through August 21st. The IOC have predicted around 480,000 tourists will descend on Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year.

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