The Society for the Fight Against Cancer (Solca) said Tuesday it would continue to provide cancer treatment to members of the Social Security (IESS) health system. Solca announced Saturday that it was suspending services to new patients when IESS failed to make a payment on a $140 million debt that dates to 2008.
“Following discussions, I have been assured that IESS will make good on previous promises to pay its debt and the Solca board of directors has decided to resume services to new and current clients,” Solca President José Jouvín said.
IESS President Alfredo Ortega blamed Solca’s suspension announcement on a “misunderstanding” resulting from a delayed government payment. “We assured Solca that we will make good on the April agreement to pay the $22 million debt for the last three months of 2021. We are also preparing a plan to pay the earlier debt.”
In a radio interview Monday, Ortega admitted that IESS remains in “a difficult financial situation” due to lack of government funding. “The problem dates back to the decision of the [Rafael] Correa government to end the government contribution to the system,” he says. “Since then, poor economic conditions have prevented the government from resuming payments.”
He added the amount the government owes IESS is about $4 billion.
IESS health services depends on Solca for the majority of its cancer treatment. Solca operates seven hospitals and clinics in major cities in Ecuador.
Unions to strike over lack of health funding
The United Workers Front announced Monday that it will take to the streets September 21 to protest lack of funding for the Social Security Institute (IESS) and national health systems. FUT said it will be joined by other unions, including the National Union of Educators, the Confederation of Free Trade Union Organizations, the Confederation of Unitary Class Organizations of Workers and the General Union of Workers of Ecuador.
“Our protest will continue until we see definitive action from the government to adequately finance IESS health services that our members support through their contributions,” said Mesías Tatamuez, Cedocut president.
In addition to demanding more funding for health care, the protest will oppose the privatization of the Ecuador’s Institutional Bank (BIESS).
“Three governments have ignored the constitutional right of Ecuadorians for health care and workers are tired of the broken promises,” Tatamuez said. “The crisis began with [Rafael] Correa and continued with [Lenin] Moreno but it is now time for Guillermo Lasso to fix it. He continues to make promises while workers are denied appointments, treatment and medicines. People are dying because of the inaction.”
FUT President Ángel Sánchez blames corruption and the government’s unwillingness to penalize delinquent employers for not making payments to IESS. “Many companies take money from workers to pay IESS and do not pass it on,” he says. “Where is the law enforcement to correct the problem?”
Relations restored between Colombia and Venezuela
Formal relations between Colombia and Venezuela were reestablished Monday in Caracas during a visit by Colombia’s new ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were suspended by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in February 2019 following former Colombian president Iván Duque’s decision to recognize Juan Guaidó, not Maduro, as Venezuela’s legitimate president. Since then, the two countries have experienced several border disputes as more than a million Venezuelan refugees have relocated to Colombia.
In his comments, Benedetti said Colombian President Gustavo Petro welcomes a “new era of friendship” between the two countries. “Like me, the president believes that the bonds between our countries should never have been broken in the first place and we look forward to a friendly relationship in the future.”
Cold, drizzly weather to end
Although the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (Inamhi) says cool, rainy weather will continue through Wednesday, it says dryer, warmer conditions are on the way. “The current weather pattern that moved in Sunday, should begin to dissipate on Wednesday and be replaced by the weekend,” Inamhi said. Meteorologists blame the unseasonably cool weather on a flow of cold air from the desert areas of Peru and Bolivia passing over the Amazon jungle.
On Tuesday, the high temperature in Cuenca only reached 15 degrees (59F) while the overnight low was 6 (43F). Temperatures have been colder to the north, with Latacunga morning temperatures dropping below freezing for three consecutive mornings and Riobamba recording lows of 1 and 2 degrees.