San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Salvadoran Medics Say Gov’t Planning to Privatize Health

SAN SALVADOR – Salvadoran doctors are complaining that the lack of medicines and equipment in public hospitals in El Salvador is being deliberately engineered to justify the privatization of health services.

Manuel Menjivar, secretary general for the union representing physicians at public hospitals, and Eduardo Santamaría, president of the Medical Association, made the charge in a joint television appearance.

The two said a health-care overhaul now under consideration in Congress should include a provision banning privatization.

Menjivar said that most of the hospitals in the state-run Social Security (ISSS) network do not have many medicines and the users of those facilities have to buy them, which hurts the poor.

He charged that the institution’s authorities delay the process of bidding for the acquisition of medicines to “cause a lack of supply” and that the necessary equipment is not acquired to force the outsourcing of more services to private clinics.

For his part, Santamaría said that some of the services private firms already offer public hospitals, including security and laundry services, are inefficient and very costly.

Both men said that the bill currently before the Legislative Assembly, while eschewing privatization, leaves the door open to private firms to take on more of the tasks now performed by the ISSS.The head of the Public Health School of the Jesuitrun Central American University also joined the petition to establish in law a prohibition on the privatization of health care.

Since 1993, ISSS personnel have mounted strikes and protests against what they claim are government intentions to privatize.

The conservative incumbent President, Tony Saca, has insisted that he will not privatize the health-care system, but he has said that some services must be provided by private enterprises due to the lack of resources at the public hospitals, mainly equipment that has not been able to be acquired for lack of funds.


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