By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — President Dilma Rousseff was in Rio de Janeiro state on June 30th to mark the opening of Hospital Estadual dos Lagos in Saquarema that will serve an estimated 2.3 million people living in the east of the state. With R$46 million invested in the new medical center, the focus will be on serving orthopedic and surgical trauma, high-risk maternity and surgical gynecology.
Specialized services such as CAT Scans, ultrasound, mammography, X-ray and echo-cardiogram, will also be provided by appointment, through the municipal health service. The hospital should provide a vital service for the seriously ill in this region, with 56 inpatient beds ten adult ICU beds, ten neonatal ICU and five semi-intensive care unit.
Brazil’s public health system is plagued by shortages of both resources and staff, which have a huge affect of the lives of citizens. Those who cannot afford to pay upfront for private care often have to travel significant distances to receive medical attention and once at a hospital they are subjected to long waits to be seen by a doctor, which can sometimes prove fatal.
A total of 450 health professionals and support administrators have been employed to work at the new Hospital Estadual dos Lagos, which will no doubt be presented by the government as another example of their commitment to improving state healthcare provision.
One of the major projects of Dilma Rousseff’s tenure is the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program, created partly in response to the protests over health care 2013. The project aims at rapidly increasing the numbers of doctors in Brazil, particularly in areas with no current medical provision and includes employing doctors from oversees.
Also on June 30th, Rousseff announced that the program had surpassed the target coverage and currently benefits fifty million people across the country. According to Rousseff, all of the requests made by municipal councils for an increase in doctors to their cities have been met.
Currently the program employs 14,462 Brazilian and foreign doctors working in clinics in 3,819 municipalities. Many of the doctors involved come from Cuba, where the standard of medial education is one of the highest in the world but there are not the same employment opportunities. This element of the program has been met with some criticism and it has been reported that the Cuban doctors have been inflicted to racism and an infringement of rights when arriving to work in Brazil.
With a general election in October, it is no surprise that Rousseff has been keen to emphasis the perceived early success of Mais Médicos. During her weekly “Coffee with the President” address she referred to a recent survey by the Ministry of Health, which reported a 21 percent reduction in the number of referrals made to hospitals from clinics employing the program.
“When you treat a health problem at the local health center, you treat the disease early. Thus, you have a greater capability to control the illness and heal patients. This also relieves hospitals and emergency services. The most specialized health centers are increasingly taking only the most serious cases.”
Later in the afternoon, the President announced a further R$109.9 million medical project, predicted to be delivered around the end of 2015. An oncology center will serve the 500,000 residents of the Nova Friburgo municipality, where a cardiology hospital will benefit the three million residents of the region.