Field hospital guidelines took three months to approve in Brazil

Field hospitals guidelines took three months to approve in Brazil
Field hospital in Recife. Photo: Andréa Rêgo Barros/PCR

Brazil recorded its first Covid-19 death three months ago and only now, 45,000 graves later, has the Health Ministry approved technical guidelines for how coronavirus field hospitals should operate in the country.

Not only have the new regulations arrived late, but they also appear to be a step backward, establishing that field hospital facilities must not contain intensive care beds — used by severe patients who need mechanical ventilation. According to the decree, these facilities should be seen as a last resort — with priority given to the remodeling of (already overburdened) health facilities at the state and municipal level. Field hospitals would mainly serve a supplementary role by treating patients with low to moderate level symptoms only.

The document, signed by Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, also foresees little federal support given to state-run hospitals. The government will only provide “technical support” to hospital administrations — leaving the responsibility for the creation and maintenance of field hospitals on the shoulders of state and municipal officials. 

The importance of field hospitals 

As reported in May by The Brazilian Report, field hospitals have been crucial to avoiding a collapse of the Brazilian public healthcare system. Yet, many state hospitals have had long delays to open or are currently operating way below capacity due to bureaucratic hurdles and struggles from state administrations to guarantee the necessary resources and personnel for field hospitals.

Besides the lack of federal support, these emergency facilities have suffered from poor management and alleged graft schemes. Multiple state administrations have been accused of embezzling money that should have gone to the Covid-19 fight. Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel is currently facing an impeachment trial for allegedly taking kickbacks from state contractors.

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