Because of the Corona crisis, doctors without a license to practice are increasingly being used in Peru. Access is also made easier for Venezuelan doctors who have fled.
With almost 450,000 infected people and more than 20,000 dead, Peru has become one of the corona hotspots in Latin America (as of August 6, 2020). Only in Brazil and Mexico are the numbers even higher – but these countries also have significantly more inhabitants.
In Peru, the coronavirus hits a weak health system: too few hospital beds, too few medications, too little oxygen, too few staff. To counter the latter problem, President Martín Vizcarra signed an emergency ordinance a few days ago. It is intended to enable domestic and foreign doctors to work in the health system who do not yet have a license to practice medicine, i.e. who do not yet have official approval. Foreign doctors should even be able to work without having to wait for their qualifications to be recognized.
Venezuelans’ situation is precarious
The latter would probably benefit Venezuelan refugees in particular: Around 830,000 Venezuelans live in Peru who left Venezuela in view of the political and humanitarian crisis in their homeland.
The extraordinary move could perhaps lighten the mood between Peruvians and Venezuelans a little. The initial willingness to help the migrants waned after a while in Peru, and the corona crisis is likely to have increased resentment. For example, a Venezuelan reported to the online portal “Blickpunkt Latin America” that a shopkeeper had told him that his compatriots had brought the virus into the country.
In any case, the new regulation is a win-win situation insofar as both overburdened hospitals and previously unemployed or precariously employed doctors from Venezuela could benefit.
Several thousand Venezuelans are expected to work in the health system
The Emergency Ordinance states that foreign doctors are given up to six months after starting their work to have their titles and license to practice recognized in Peru. According to the media, the wages for medical personnel without national recognition of the title should at least correspond to the Peruvian minimum wage of 930 Sol, the equivalent of 220 euros. Six months in professional life are also the time frame in which Peruvian medical professionals without a license to practice medicine have to pass the necessary state examination.
It is unclear how many Venezuelans can find work in Peru more easily thanks to the new regulations. In mid-May, Peru’s foreign ministry announced that it was hoping to integrate around 3,400 Venezuelan doctors and nurses into the health system. Venezuela’s ambassador to Peru spoke of 1,000 doctors and 4,000 nurses in April.
Government must resign due to corona management
Peru’s Prime Minister Pedro Cateriano said on the morning of August 3 that he welcomed the dismantling of bureaucratic hurdles for the time of the coronavirus pandemic. “In this way, all medical professionals can help with the national task of fighting the virus.” Because in the last few days you have seen a “small increase” in the number of infections and deaths.
But on Tuesday, Cateriano lost his position. The parliament in Lima made it clear to the prime minister that it apparently assessed the corona crisis in Peru more seriously: in a vote of confidence, the majority of the MPs voted against the head of government. This means that Peru’s cabinet is also forced to resign and President Martín Vizcarra has to form a new government right in the middle of the pandemic. He had only replaced Prime Minister Zeballos and several other ministers in mid-July after the high number of infections in the country and the economic crisis had reduced Vizcarra’s popularity.
The Peruvian Medical Association “Colégio Médico del Perú” had also criticized Cateriano. “By saying it is a small recovery, the prime minister is minimizing the problem. The curve we are seeing is a tragedy for Peru,” said chairman Palacios Celi on ATV television. The chamber said it was considering proposing a new 15-day shutdown to curb the number of infections.
Medical Association describes decree as “unnecessary”
In contrast, despite the crisis, the chamber does not consider the bureaucratic relief for medical professionals to be a good idea. “The decree is unnecessary and – although limited to the time of the medical emergency – a dangerous precedent for the institution of professional medical associations.” The measure promotes the illegal exercise of the medical profession, it says in a message.
The ordinance is unnecessary because since the beginning of the pandemic, the regional medical associations have in any case switched to granting physicians with a certified degree online and within 48 hours. Even foreigners who were found capable by a “respected institution” would receive approval for one month within 48 hours.
Government crisis, refugee crisis, corona crisis – despite the concerns, the advance permission for foreign doctors and those without a license to practice medicine could be a building block to help Peru in at least one of the three crises.
Author: Ines Eisele