Parents said Thursday that Colombia’s hospitals have been refusing treatment to children with cancer following a “hospital expansion” order that seeks to create capacity to deal with coronavirus infections.
The April 2 order by Health Minister Fernando Ruiz sought no hospital expansion, but the cancellation of other treatments to free up beds as the government is trying to reactivate the economy.
According to a number of organizations representing parents of children with cancer, the apparent priority to free up beds is endangering the lives and health of their children who require regular treatment.
According to a poll held by the organizations, hospitals have suspended the treatment of the children of 59% of the 240 polled parents. Of the children who do still receive treatment, 8% said this has been irregular.
It is a very difficult time, because in the midst of the crisis we find that the integral attention that Law 1388 requires for children with cancer has taken a back seat.
Among low-income families, parents additionally expressed concerns that stipends to survive the lockdown that seeks to buy time to bolster the healthcare system are not enough to properly feed their children.
We have encountered a number of impressive situations, families who literally have nothing to eat in their homes, because they live from their daily-pay work.
The parents are concerned that the their children’s chances of receiving treatment as lockdown measures are relaxed and hospital beds fill up with COVID-19 patients will continue to be slim.
The health minister’s idea to stop the treatment of other patients instead of effectively bolstering the healthcare system previously led to criticism that warned the “hospital expansion” order was pushing the hospitals closer to bankruptcy.
President Ivan Duque has used the availability of hospital beds as an argument to justify reactivating parts of the economy.
Medical organizations have resisted this, claiming they haven’t been provided with the necessary personal protection equipment that would allow them to responsibly treat COVID-19 patients.
Epidemiologists have accused the government of using insufficient or inaccurate data to justify reactivating the economy while effectively increasing the risk of collapsing the country’s healthcare system for which the consequences would be impossible to oversee.