The health system budget cuts, the brutal adjustment in science and technology, and a federalist policy of transferring responsibilities to the provinces without the corresponding resources, make up a package of measures implemented by the government that scientists, researchers and The health they discussed with that closely related to the hantavirus outbreak that runs through the city of Epuyén, in the province of Chubut. In addition to the economic cutback, which implied that early warning failed due to lack of funding from prevention and control programs – as reported by this newspaper on January 15 – criticism pointed to the absence of the degraded Ministry of Health to lead the situation left an isolated population and a province in the hands of the pressures of the tourist sector.
"As has happened in all scientific areas, these budgets have been reduced over the years and the games have been under-executed. Grants for investigating do not arrive, and for that we must add a devaluation that is destructive to the scientific system," said the biologist and researcher at Conicet, Juan Manuel Carballeda, specialist in virology, dedicated to the investigation of Dengue and Zika.
"In the particular case of Hanta in Chubut, what happened was quite obvious. To determine what type of virus circulates, it is necessary to do epidemiological studies of rodents. These studies were not done in the way that they should have been done due to the lack of budget and logistic.First observations on the population ecology of rodents were conducted throughout the year.These are long studies, you have to put a lot of traps, see what the rodents fall, and then analyze them to see if they really have a viral load. Studying the population dynamics of these species makes it possible to assess the risks, "said the virologist, adding that" cuts affect the entire scientific spectrum and when there are urgent issues like hanta, it shows more. " Carballeda, who is also part of the Network of Scientific Researchers in Health, stressed that "the country is an endemic zone, and therefore it is necessary to do permanent studies, during all seasons of the year."
In the same vein, Conicet's principal investigator and head of the Sociology of Health (UBA), Mario Pecheny, pointed out that there is a decrease in both the budget and the execution of the items and in the political will of the government to intervene. "The political determination to leave the situation in the hands of the provinces is part of a way of thinking politics in terms of what they represent.
for the state, and not to think of them as medium and long-term public policies. If you do not do epidemiological surveillance or campaigns with the population, this can happen from hanta, but it can be dengue or flood. " "There is a withdrawal from the state to reduce research by reducing resources, not executing available resources and diminishing human resources. And for now, hanta is incurable because no cure has been discovered and science does," he said.
Ana Maria Franchi, the Superior Conicet researcher and director of the Center for Pharmacological and Botanic Studies, recalled the elimination of the ministries of Health and Science, Technology and Productive Innovation (created in December 2007), on the path to the dismantling of the State, As a consequence, there are programs that begin to disappear. " "This year, for example, the issue of vaccines is not insured," he warned.
We must remember that the Health portfolio, among other programs that were reached as HIV / AIDS, last year cut the national program of vaccination and delivery of medicines and removed the reinforcement for boys and girls from the vaccination schedule. 11 years of the application against meningitis.
"The feeling is that the health of the population is becoming less and less important." The diet of children has worsened with the high cost of food and the disaster of wages, and in the short term we will see the impact of stress on those who have lost their jobs. Ministry of Health is absent from all discussions, as it was with hantavirus. "
On the other hand, the three specialists of the Malbrán Institute, where the examinations of suspected cases of hanta contagion are carried out, consulted by this newspaper and whose names are not given here because they are prohibited from talking to the media without official authorization, in their work. evaluations: the Ministry of Health acted late and poorly; and the emptying of the state has consequences which, in the face of crises, are more visible.
Firstly, they pointed out something that a Sanitary Foundation report had given a few days ago, and that the National Administration of Anlis (Malbran) Health Laboratories and Institutes has among its functions the carrying out of surveillance and epidemiological and clinical research of diseases transmissible and non-transmissible, suffered a cumulative cut between 2016 and 2019 in the budget of 35.73 percent.
In addition, they explained that "in three years at the Institute they have retired all the retirees and have not replaced anyone." The plan has been reduced, and with the decree that closed the entrance to the State, no one goes in. This affects the containment of the outbreaks. of not having human resources in cash are missing, and this helps the problem to be greater. "
On the other hand, they explained that with the cuts, the money ends up going to the diagnosis and distracting resources for research. "The outbreak studies have to pay the Ministry and not the Anlis, which is what happens," they said.
They also pointed out against the performance of the National Health portfolio: "There are antecedents, you know that the reservoir is present because the site is endemic and the Ministry ignored the issue. The same happened in November, there was an outbreak of leishmaniasis. transmitted by the bite of a mosquito infected by the parasite) in the north and was also absent. "