Uribe blames minister for outcry over health reform

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Thursday publicly criticized Health Minister Diego Palacio for not doing enough to explain the recent emergency decrees on healthcare, leading to mass protests across the country.

The president ascribed the protests to confusion about what the decrees will mean for people. Uribe blamed this confusion on Palacio, saying that for four years he had ordered the health ministry to set up a hotline to answer the public’s questions about the use of health services. Uribe says that the hotline has not been set up, and that the emergency decrees are widely misunderstood by the public due to this lack of communication.

The president argued that the lack of efficient communication between health care providers and their patients is damaging the country and the government. Uribe said this inspires a “political discourse that creates a bad environment towards reform, when the reform is good.”

According to some of his followers, Uribe is right to be concerned. Uribistas are worried about how the controversy is affecting the president. Uribe supporter and ex-president of the Conservative Party, Efrain Cepeda, admitted on Thursday that the mishandling of the decrees could affect Uribe’s political future.

Cepada echoed the president, blaming the confusion over what the decrees mean for Colombian health services on the health ministry and Palacio, saying that they “improvised” their explanation that the decrees were irreversible. This, Cepeda continued, had forced Uribe to “become a fireman, putting out fires.”

The Colombian government was forced to adapt a number of the highly controversial decrees following protests by patients and doctors against the proposed reforms.

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