Brazil Crisis Postpones Surgery
Mar. 08, 1999
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) _ Brazil's currency devaluation struck Maria Jesus de Souza in a hospital bed, hours away from surgery.
It was a simple operation that would allow the 62-year-old-nurse to receive a prosthesis on her leg, deformed by a bone disease that had confined her to a wheel chair for three years.
She had waited for weeks to be admitted to the Sao Jose University Hospital, a public institution. Six hours after admission, a nurse came with bad news: The operation was postponed, indefinitely.
The problem was the U.S.-made prosthesis, stuck in a financial limbo by a 43 percent devaluation of the Brazilian real since Jan. 13.
When the hospital ordered the unit in early January, the price was set at 1,700 reals, the equivalent of $1,395 at the time. But suddenly the distributor was asking almost 3,000 reals, and the hospital said it couldn't pay.
The Ministry of Health also didn't accept the new price, and the distributor refused to release the piece, Souza was told.
``We never imagined the devaluation was going to hurt us this way,'' said Aurora Augusta Araujo, one of Souza's five children. ``My mother waited for this surgery for so long, and now we have no where to turn.''
With a monthly pension of 130 reals, now worth $60, Souza cannot afford even part of the difference caused by the devaluation. The hospital administration says it's not to blame.
``If the health ministry and the suppliers do not come to terms on price, there is nothing we can do,'' said Marcelo Augusto Nascimento, the hospital administrator. ``I am sorry for the patients.''