By Maria Luiza Lago
CURITIBA, Paraná, Brazil – The thousands of tourists who are visiting my city for World Cup matches don’t need to worry if they get sick or injured – but the citizens in need of medical help have reason to be concerned.
The World Cup moved to Curitiba, a city in the south of Brazil, on Monday when Iran and Nigeria faced off. The match at the Arena da Baixada stadium ended in a draw, and the next game there is Friday, when Honduras and Ecuador.
Two more World Cup matches will follow here next week, which means that Curitiba will host four of the 64 games of the 2014 World Cup.
The stadium holds about 44,000 people and according to Brazilian media reports, it is ready for medical emergencies. Clinics with doctors and ambulances are on hand.
Likewise, at least six medical professionals will be in Pedreira Paulo Leminksi, an open space that will host the thousands of people who can’t get access to the stadium but come to watch the games on a big screen at Fan Fest.
In addition, the reports said FIFA will have private ambulances at the stadium to take those who need care to a special hospital prepared for the World Cup and the tourists it attracts.
That’s nice for the tourists, but meanwhile, average citizens are suffering – and some are dying – from lack of emergency medical care.
Curitiba residents are waiting several hours or even days to have their problems resolved. One local police officer waited more than a week for a steel part to fix his broken arm at the Hospital do Trabalhador, one of the largest emergency care centers in the city. It especially treats traffic or work accidents and bullet injuries.
The lack of doctors is a problem in Brazil and one the big contrasts between what was prepared for the World Cup and the reality the Brazilians live with daily.
There’s also lack of care in the Intensive Therapy Units here and the Brazilian media is full of stories about the human cost. One told of a 47-day-old baby waiting to be treated. The boy had suffered a respiratory arrest and died waiting for a spot in the intensive care unit. His father was quoted in the local media saying they had tried three other public hospitals and couldn’t find a vacancy anywhere.
Another tragic case involved a 40-year-old musician, Emerson Antoniacomi, who felt sick about 8 p.m. on a Thursday and waited until the next day for a spot in the Intensive Therapy Unit. When he finally made it, it was too late – he was brain dead.
Trying to ease the problems, the Brazilian government created the “Mais Médicos,” or “More Doctors” program, hiring 15,000 foreign and Brazilian professionals to meet the need for doctors in the inner cities and the peripheries of the big cities.
This program was really criticized by the Brazilian Medical Association and the Federal Medical Board. They said these doctors are not practicing legally because they have not submitted to the Nation Revalidation of Diplomas Exam that is supposed to make sure Brazil’s doctors are qualified.
Least than two weeks before the World Cup, there was a strike in public and philanthropic hospitals here by nurses, people working on the World Cup and cleaning workers.
They asked for a 15 percent raise in meal vouchers, more sanitary working conditions and free health care, according to Sindesc, the health workers union.
Because of the June 4 strike, the emergency units were overloaded, city officials at the Prefecture of Curitiba decided. In the end, a proposed compromise ended the strike and hopefully will stabilize the situation.
It’s good that Brazil made an effort to receive tourists and treat them well, but her citizens are still waiting to be properly attended.