Rio de Janeiro’s precarious health care system is under a state of emergency, as declared on Thursday by Rio’s government. Rio State Governor Fernando Pezao was forced to pronounce this deplorable state so that much needed national funds could be channeled to the city’s hospitals and medical clinics – many of which were shuttered due to insufficient funding.
This desperate decree has granted Rio an emergency stay, whereby government coffers will be tapped to the tune of $25.3 million to keep Rio’s health care system up and running – for only the next six months into June. This news is not only sobering for the 6.4 million residents, but worrisome for the millions of visitors expected to attend the 2016 Summer Olympics in August. Pezão said in a press conference, “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.”
The Brazilian government has long recognized that its nationwide health care system required bolstering. In an address to the nation in June 2013, President Dilma Rousseff proclaimed that $50 billion would be devoted to health care, in addition to education. Since then, burgeoning government corruption as well as a weakened economy have scuttled these high hopes. As a result, funds earmarked for much need health care infrastructure improvements are woefully insufficient.
Rio de Janeiro citizens, especially those living within the hundreds of impoverished favelas, have long complained about the level and quality of health care services that have failed to keep pace with increasing demand. Still, those who can afford quality health care have been impacted – with medical facilities only providing care to those in dire need of attention, due to limited medical staff and resources. Even on Christmas Day, the sick were being turned away at one hospital.
Travel Preparations of Olympic Proportions
Recent stories about Zika, and deadly Dengue fever outbreaks, as spread by mosquitos, have all on alert – especially those planning to travel to Brazil. Further, the quality of water, whether it be the highly chlorinated drinking water, or the contaminated beach surf is cause for concern. This past summer, even elite athletes who competed in Rio Olympics test events in polluted waters complained about infections, intestinal distress, and respiratory problems soon afterwards.
With the Brazil economy expected to spiral downwards well into next year, needed health care funds for Rio’s inhabitants will miss the mark. This city will be flooded with millions of travelers next August, and this influx will stretch an already over-strapped system.
These fans will need to take precautions. Many will simply opt to wade knee deep in the enticing Copacabana and Ipanema waters, to minimize exposure. Others will be warned about standing pools of waters where mosquitos breed, and advised to use bug spray repellent. Last, packing both over the counter medicines, as well as prescription antibiotics may be just what the doctor ordered. Preventive steps like these will minimize visits to medical facilities that are likely to be overburdened.