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The lessons that Latin America did not learn from the pandemic

Getting caught up in the vehicular chaos of Lima, Peru is an everyday thing.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over and the wounds that its most critical stages left on entire families are still in the process of healing. Official figures from the Pan American Health Organization account for more than 2.8 million deaths accumulated in the region from the disease until this week.

While the vaccination process advances in the most unequal region on the planet -as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) called it in a report released weeks before the pandemic was declared-, most Latin Americans have begun to see with some disappointment that the promises of a “new normal”, which implied improvements, are fading.

“We are back to our old normal, but I think we are worse off. We haven’t learned anything. If you want to be seen in a hospital, you have to wait months for them to give you an appointment, you have to arrive almost dead to be seen. oh! And to get an appointment you have to get up early and you lose hours standing in line, ”she told the voice of americaBetty Uscamayta, 46, who earns a living cleaning homes in Lima and who has been waiting for a gallbladder operation since before the pandemic.

Peru was one of the countries with the highest death rates in the world from COVID-19. The precariousness of its health system, fragmented, poorly managed and affected by corruption, was laid bare by the pandemic. At the time, the authorities tried to strengthen it by providing it with economic and human resources, and a profound transformation was promised, but the effort did not advance, according to former Peruvian Minister of Health Victor Zamora, a doctor and public health expert.

“The pandemic was used to reverse this situation, but temporarily. The government of (Pedro) Castillo has stopped the progress produced during the pandemic and has not made any progress in reversing the precarious situation of the system, ”he told the VOA and recalled that, once the acute phase of the pandemic was over, “the lessons learned were forgotten and the promises to strengthen the system and reform it, shelved.”

And the truncated transformation of the Peruvian health system is practically replicated in Colombia.

The inefficiency of the health system in Venezuela takes lives

Dionne Cruz, former president of the Colombian Health Association, told the VOA that, after the pandemic, “there is not really a substantial change in the Colombian health system, there is still a lot to do and that is precisely why I think that today we are all focused on thinking, jointly, about the issue of reforming the system ”.

For Cruz, who is also a professor at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, the health care situation in the country continues to be critical; Complaints related to appointments with specialists, the provision of tests and the timely delivery of medications are frequent.

“That delay and that negligence and that inefficiency of the system because it takes its life and takes a lot out of quality of life for people,” says the former president, who clarifies that what has happened after the pandemic is that people are more aware in care and prevention.

In Venezuela

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the panorama of the health system continues to be bleak and there is no glimpse of a medium-term recovery, especially given the deterioration of the infrastructure and the absence of a policy of “acquisition and replacement” of equipment and supplies, experts say. .

“During the pandemic there were no investments, there was no improvement in health personnel (…) In Venezuela, the health system, instead of preparing for when the epidemic ended, returning to normal operations, was never done and rather the deterioration was older because health personnel died and it could have been avoided,” he told the VOA Jaime Lorenzo, director of the United Doctors of Venezuela organization.

The Government of President Nicolás Maduro has attributed the crisis to the sanctions imposed by the international community, however, like dozens of civil society organizations, the doctor specializing in Public Health maintains that the situation is pre-existing and stresses that health , education and food are areas that should not have “partisan or ideological tint.”

According to the most recent National Hospital Survey, the values ​​of shortages of emergency supplies “have remained in the order of 44% – 47% during this year” and, although he admits that compared to December 2017 there has been a improvement close to 10%, the figure “is not even close to the ideal values ​​to have a decent attention span.”

The hope of improving the health systems in some Central American countries, such as El Salvador, also seems to have vanished. Despite the fact that this country was one of the first in the region to vaccinate thousands of citizens, health in communities with fewer resources continues to be a debt.

This is El Salvador

For Salvadoran intensive care doctor José Gonzalo Batres, the health system in his country continues to be “poor and voracious.”

“Instead of fulfilling a basic right for citizens, health has long since become an act of charity. For years we have been accustomed to small acts being celebrated as great achievements: health units, new surgical teams, new buildings without equipment, etc. But the system has been and remains flawed,” he told the VOA.

And in Nicaragua?

In Nicaragua – where the government minimized the pandemic and amid reports of hospital collapses attributed the deaths of people to other reasons such as hypertension or diabetes – there is still much work to be done.

Nicaraguan epidemiologist Leonel Argüello, founder of the Ministry of Health, told the voice of america that from the pandemic it was learned that it is better to speak honestly to the population, without politicizing diseases, assuming responsibilities and taking care of people’s lives.

“You cannot play with human life, especially when your obligation as a government is to protect it. When an epidemic occurs, you need to call all the available personnel in the country and not fire them at the time they are most needed, which is what happened in Nicaragua,” he said.

Undoubtedly, the debt that the States have to settle with their health systems in Latin America is enormous.

Back to face-to-face

Another of the great lessons that has not been learned in several Latin American countries is to take advantage of teleworking. During the pandemic, this alternative became a solution to maintain the productivity of those who had to leave offices to protect themselves from contagion, and many governments, such as Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, among others, had to issue regulations, previously non-existent , to regulate it.

“The rules of where and how we can work have changed a bit by force and have shown that many workers can make a living and produce outside the office, outside the factory,” said Laura Ripani, head of the IDB’s Labor Markets Division. , in the virtual conversation “Future of work: The office as we know it, is it over?”, broadcast this week.

“Undoubtedly, (labor) flexibility is here to stay, the world trend is towards greater use of these flexible work arrangements and countries that do not advance with this issue will be left behind in attracting investment and talent,” he said.

The concept of digital nomads – those who can go from city to city, without a fixed address and work from anywhere, at any time – is already beginning to sound strong in other parts of the world, but in Latin America it is still far away.

The return to face-to-face work is increasing. Although the hybrid option that intersperses face-to-face with virtuality prevails, employers are choosing to see more people in the offices.

In Colombia, Iván Jaramillo, spokesperson for the Labor Observatory of the Universidad del Rosario, stated that “in the economic reactivation, the transition to face-to-face training was more pronounced than expected.” It is estimated, according to Jaramillo, that 91% of workers in the 23 main cities of Colombia have returned to face-to-face training.

Now, in the context of the legal opening to the inclusion of remote working modalities and having been functional, during the pandemic, “the return to face-to-face for the provision of personal services prevails.” However, added the spokesperson for the Labor Observatory, “some organizations maintain remote work spaces through hybrid schemes (supplementary teleworking) to capitalize on the advantages of each modality.”

In El Salvador, the face-to-face modality at work has returned to “normal”, although some companies have realized that the hybrid modality reduces costs without reducing operations and both virtual and face-to-face seem convenient if combined, referred to the VOA Douglas González, engineer and specialist in the food safety area.

And it is precisely due to a greater presence in the works, to which other factors are added such as the lack of road maintenance and more vehicles on the tracks, that vehicular traffic in important Latin American cities, such as Lima and Bogotá, seems to be more complicated than before the pandemic.

Getting caught up in the vehicular chaos of Lima, Peru is an everyday thing.

According to figures from Inrix, Bogotá is among the 10 metropolises with the worst traffic in the world. The figures from the National Administrative Department of Statistics DANE, from the latest Social Pulse survey, revealed in August, indicate that this city has an average of 58.8 minutes of travel time from home to the workplace, according to those surveyed. In between, Colombians spend up to 40 minutes commuting from their homes to work.

For its part, recent data from the Transitemos Foundation in Peru showed that 38% of the Lima population loses an hour and a half due to vehicular chaos.

“Traffic is worse than before the pandemic. It takes me longer to go from one place to another, they don’t even want to leave the house anymore, but I have to do it because virtuality is over for me, ”she told the VOAresigned, Lucero Farfán, 28, while waiting for the bus that will take her to the state agency where she works in Lima.

This report has the collaboration of journalists from the Voice of America, Karla Arévalo from El Salvador, Carolina Alcalde from Venezuela, Karen Sánchez from Colombia, Houston Castillo from Nicaragua.

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Written by Editor TLN

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