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Wed Apr 22, 2020, 06:14 PM

Brazil's government, states fight for pandemic supplies

Diane Jeantet, Associated Press
Updated 3:23 pm CDT, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Photo: Andre Borges, AP
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, left, greets his outgoing Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta during the swearing-in ceremony for the new Health Minister Nelson Teich, not in picture, at Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, April 17, 2020. Mandetta had garnered support for his handling of the pandemic that included promotion of broad isolation measures enacted by state governors, but had drawn the ire of Bolsonaro, who has said shutting down the economy would cause more damage than confining only high-risk Brazilians. .

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Last month, Dr. Riane Azevedo pulled off a master stroke. The superintendent of the largest public hospital in the poor Brazilian state of Ceara managed to procure a highly sought-after cache of ventilators to treat the new coronavirus patients overwhelming her intensive care unit.

But just weeks before she was due to receive the ventilators, she got bad news. Her local supplier could no longer honor the agreement. Instead, she was told, the equipment was going to Brazil’s federal government.

“The health ministry confiscated the ventilators for our hospital,” said Azevedo from the Instituto Dr. José Frota hospital, where she had planned to open up another 40 ICU beds in May. “It makes no sense … It’s like working against yourself.”

Amid a global pandemic, medical equipment needed to treat patients with COVID-19 and protect health workers has become a hot commodity, with countries around the world competing for crucial supplies. In Brazil, in a scenario also seen in the United States, the competition has become internal. Some states are vying for material with the government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who is already sharply at odds with many governors over coronavirus containment measures. The Supreme Court has defended Maranhao state's purchase of ventilators.


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