After being part of one of the areas with the best traceability in the country, the municipality of Arica announced that it will not continue with its plan to detect contacts of patients infected by covid-19 in the month of January. This, after a cut in the health authority that would prevent them from having sufficient resources to carry out this task.
A bureaucratic fight between the building house and the Ministry of Health forced the suspension of the traceability of positive cases of covid-19 in the commune of Arica, right in the middle of a rebound in infections.
The measure hits the region hard, after at the end of 2020 it was positioned as one of the areas with the best tracking rates of positive cases in the country.
Indeed, in the latest report of the National Strategy for Testing, Traceability and Isolation indicators of the Department of Epidemiology of Minsal, the city of Arica positioned the region among the four best evaluated in the matter, with 4.2 contacts per person infected. A figure lower than the 10 recommended by the WHO, but higher than the national average of 2.9.
Thus, the mayor of Arica, Gerardo Espíndola, accused that the Ministry of Health cut by around $ 30 million the budget allocated to the municipality for the traceability strategy, one of the main axes for the control of the pandemic.
In conversation with BioBioChile, the community chief tells that the health authority informed him that the promised resources were not going to be transferred to them and that the process of traceability and the active search for cases was going to be taken by the Health Department.
Regarding the reasons behind the closure of the plan, Espíndola explains that on December 10, Health was contacted to find out if the strategy would continue and how many resources would be allocated to it. The answer came 20 days later, that is, on December 30, when they were informed that they would receive 35 million pesos.
“We said that this was very little and that it was not enough, we made the arrangements with the minister directly and on December 31 we are told that it is 55 million pesos, much less than the resources with which we had been working,” Espíndola details. who needs what the cost of the strategy as it had been doing was about 80 million108 if the new functions assigned for January are considered.
“The problem is that the resources were never transferred. Although they are fewer resources, if they had transferred us we could have continued with part of the team, but due to administrative and legal issues we cannot hire anyone without financial support. That is why the traceability and active search of cases was finally suspended ”, he laments.
Faced with the accusations, the Minister of Health of Arica, Beatriz Chávez, was emphatic in pointing out that the municipality’s budget was not cut, but it would have been the same one who would not have accepted the amount that was planned for them.
“We spoke to them, and everything is documented, that they were going to transfer the $ 55 million. They insisted that they were going to try to adapt but that they needed 85 million and not 55 million. And they left to give us a formal answer, however we did not receive any information, “he says.
Chávez points out that, since the funds were not accepted, they were forced to continue the strategy and to hire the officials who were dismissed from the municipality on December 31.
And he adds: “We could have optimized resources and together worked out the best strategy for the good of the population. Maybe they could have continued with the traceability and we with the active search for cases or the other way around. If they had told us that they were going to withdraw from the strategy, we could have discussed it, but there was no position ”.
In this regard, the mayor points out that the underlying problem is twofold. “First, from the ministry the resources for this strategy are cut, and second is that already at a much more regional level there is a lack of planning,” he says.
“We are notified the same day that the year ends that we have these resources and in the face of that obviously we could not continue with the work,” he acknowledges.
And he sentences: “What I most regret is that resources have been reduced in the midst of the pandemic and when we are in this second wave. I think it’s a bad sign from the government. There is an enormous contradiction between the speech of the President of the Republic and the actions that are being taken ”.