SANTIAGO – Since the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has assured that Chile would be prepared for the virus. On Mar. 18, they declared a State of Catastrophe in order to better battle the disease. The next day, with 342 confirmed cases in the country, hospitals are reporting that they lack the supplies needed to combat the pandemic, while medical residents accuse the ministry of not guaranteeing their safety.
On Mar. 3, the first coronavirus case in the country was confirmed, two weeks later the government had to declare a State of Catastrophe due to the uncontrollable spread of the disease which reached 342 on the night of Mar. 19—arguably due to the government’s initial, relaxed response to the disease and its failure to take immediate, extreme measures.
For example, the Minister of Health, Jaime Mañalich, did create a strict protocol, the purpose of which was to curb the transmission of the disease, but unfortunately some of these rules weren’t followed by others, resulting in many instances in which people with the virus were allowed to leave and in some cases, travel to other cities, like the man who traveled from Santiago to Temuco before being informed of his condition.
When Chile entered phase four of the pandemic, the government announced further measures, which include closing the borders, suspending classes, and canceling massive events. However, experts say that it was too little, too late and if the country doesn’t begin taking more serious precautions Chile could end up worse than Italy, where the health system is completely overwhelmed, forcing doctors to choose who to save and who to let die.
Cracks in the System
Earlier this year, Mañalich was ridiculed when he assured everyone that Chile had the best health care system in the world and that it would be prepared in case the virus made its way to the country. On Mar. 18, with 238 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an ER doctor from the Ex-Posta Central Hospital posted a video to Instagram where she directly talked to Mañalich telling him that they didn’t have enough medical supplies to adequately treat patients with coronavirus and that they couldn’t protect themselves from the virus.
She also said that they had been given one face mask for each health care professional, that they didn’t even have soap to properly wash their hands, and that they had one bottle of alcohol gel that had to be shared by 13 patients, when the proper procedure is that each patient has one bottle. Mañalich responded by saying that those weren’t of the utmost importance in order to treat patients.
There was also an incident with seventh-year medical students from the Catholic University, who denied their services to the Ministry of Health due to the lack of coordination and information from the ministry. Among the things the medical students want are guarantees as to their own safety in case they contract coronavirus or are unable to attend classes.
The medical college has asked the Health Ministry to be more communicative with it and with hospitals in order to provide better care in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the public health care system, because they have even less information and don’t even possess the right tools to combat the virus.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.