Brazilian government leaders declared a second state of emergency in recent days as Brazilian spending cutbacks send tremors through an already fragile health care system that is teetering on the edge. In pure desperation, these officials have implored that essential funds be released to bolster Rio de Janeiro’s health care network, and to rein in an out of control outbreak of a Zika viral infection believed to cause microcephaly in newborns.
Via his emergency decree issued on Thursday, Rio de Janeiro Governor Fernando Pezao has triggered the release of $25.3 million in federal funding towards propping up a failing health care network in Rio de Janeiro, the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
In December, as much needed funds trickled in, already strapped hospitals and medical clinics were forced to shut doors, and cut services within the country’s second largest city of 6.5 million people. “We are living through a very difficult situation in the state, perhaps the most difficult of any of the Brazilian states,” said Pezão to reporters. “But we are counting on the federal government, President Dilma Rousseff and everyone else to pull the state out of this situation as quickly as possible.”
These facilities have gone without financial support for several weeks. As a result, a pecking order of patients was quickly established at certain facilities with skeletal staffs. Here stressed-out doctors and nurses could only attend to those with life-threatening conditions, turning away many requiring medical attention – even on Christmas Eve. “We hope to be able to normalize payments by the end of the week,” said Pezao, by relying on the emergency release of cash, and spurring additional funding in early January.
This stage of emergency will extend for 180 days into late June – forty days short of these Summer Games starting on August 5. It remains to be seen how the city, in its preparations for the arrival of several million visitors, will be ready to accommodate the masses.
Zika Virus Emergency
Rio’s urgent declaration comes on the heels last week’s emergency proclamation seeking federal funding to prevent, control and treat infected to-be-mothers who are infected by zika, a virus believed to be spread by mosquitos. In turn, their newborns have suffered from microcephaly, an illness causing birth defects and developmental delays, and these babies are requiring much medical attention as well. Researchers are studying the suspected link between these two.
Diagnosed cases of these two unprecedented conditions are dramatically rising within several areas of Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro. Only recently, several hundred women have been positively diagnosed with the virus, while dozens of babies are now afflicted with the potentially deadly microcephaly.
The financially strapped Brazilian government is grappling with both inflation and recessionary pressures. As a result, the tax revenues it typically relies on have precipitously dropped this year, as businesses struggle to survive.