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Gustavo Palacios ustavopa at interserver.com.ar
Tue Jan 14 03:43:17 EST 1997


Buenos Aires, Argentine

 In 1997 this Institute will suffer a reduction of 37% in its budget
supplies and 13% in its budget for personnel. In December 26, 1996 as
part of what is called the "2nd Reform of the Public Sector",
government authorities fires 101 professionals, technicians and
administrative personnel from the 7 National Institutes of Health.
 The National Institute of Microbiology (INM) "Dr. Carlos G. Malbran"
biggest of these 7 Institutes) is the microbiological reference
laboratory of the Health Ministry. Since its foundation in 1916, has
been a pioneer in controlling and managing infectious diseases in
Latin-America. This scientific tradition has allowed the INM to
achieved high specialization in different areas of Virology,
Bacteriology, Parasitology and Mycology, relevant for the Public
Health of our population. 
 Presently the INM hosts the reference centers for the most important
infectious diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, respiratory infections,
hepatitis, meningitis, sexually transmitted diseases among others.
This centers are the head of the national laboratory network and
produces unique information, used for preventing infectious diseases,
evaluation of vaccination campaigns and  early outbreak detection and
control. The recent detection and management of a hantavirus outbreak
in the south of the country, and the present outbreak of cholera in
the north are clear examples of the important role the INM plays in
the epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases. In this
regard, the INM plays also a unique role from the social point of view
by offering high complexity diagnostic methods that in many cases are
not performed in any other private or public institution. Other
important role of the Institute is the formation of human resources
that fulfills not only national needs but also the needs of several
other Latin-American countries.
 Besides, the INM is also the only public institution presently
several biologicals such as anti-rabies sera, rabies vaccine, tetanus
vaccine, intravesical BCG, tuberculin PPD, antiserum for local species
of snake venoms and anti-arachnid sera.
 Finally, the INM is also the institution where the quality control of
vaccines used in the national plans, and other biologicals (such as
diagnostic kits used in blood banks) is being routinely performed.
 For the last 25 years, with the appearance of new diseases such as
the emerging of new viruses such as hantavirus,  the re-emerging of 
known diseases such as cholera, and the continuous appearance of new
vaccines, the INM has increase its key role in the National Public
Health System. Nevertheless, a 40% reduction in the personnel budget
suffered during the same period (including a 16%  reduction occurred
in 1992  during the "1st Reform of the Public Sector") weakened some
of its functions, mainly its research activities.  
 We suspect  that the present lay off of trained technicians,
professionals, and capable administrative personnel with specific
expertise in the many specialized areas the INM is involved, is not an
isolated budgetary problem but an organized plan destined to transfer
to the private sector the control of the public health in the country.
In this regard, is specially suggestive the recent publication of the
book "Proposal for the Reform of the Public Sector" representing the
opinion of a powerful economic research foundation (FIEL, Fundacion de
Investigaciones Economicas Latinoamericanas) of Argentine. FIEL is
recognized not only for its economic studies but also for the great
impact its proposals have on the opinion of political leaders. The
previously mentioned book is surprisingly proposing the transfer of
the reference laboratories of the Institute and the responsibilities
concerned with the epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases
to the private sector.
 We believe the National Government has to control and pursue the 
of Argentine population and cannot refuse these indelegable
responsibilities. In this regard, the previously mentioned reduction
in the 1997 budget  for supplies and personnel is also accompanied by
an increase in the budget for new equipment and buildings. Without
capable personnel and enough supplies, what are we building,
rebuilding and equipping laboratories for? 
 Fighting this lay off policy, we have proposed the transfer of funds
originally destined for equipment to the personnel item of the budget,
in order to save the Oknow howO patrimony of the Institute. Anyway,
the budget for new equipment can be recovered considering a Congress
law already approved for 1997 that assigns extra funds from a new  tax
to a list of Hospitals and Health Institutes (including INM).
 Instead, the government has been reluctant to re-consider the
decision responsible of this massive lay off.  Moreover, government
authorities are arguing that this is only a reduction in some
bureaucratic personal of the Institute. This is not true. The present
lay off of 49 persons in the INM includes: an internationally awarded
professional responsible of the production of intravesical BCG
(successfully used in the treatment of bladder cancer); the two
professionals responsible of the quality control of diagnosis kits
usually used in blood banks for the diagnosis of infectious diseases;
the professional head, a technician and administrative personnel of
the laboratory that produces antisera for typing bacterias such as
shigella, salmonella, E. coli, and cholera; a professional of the
Bacterial Department finishing his doctoral degree in the Institute
Pasteur; the professional head of the animal facility; the
professional responsible of the snake sector in the animal facility
(during the last four years he had developed a program that enable the
inbreed of local snake species used in the production of snake's
venoms antisera); the only two technicians with expertise in the
inoculation of venoms in horses;
 one of the two drivers responsible of transportation of supplies,
and antisera between the Institute and field facility; and technical
and administrative staff with specific expertise in the many
specialized areas the INM is involved. It is yet more disappointing
that all this services will surely disappear because the "Reform" is
not only  laying off the people with the "know how", but also  getting
ride of its positions (with the explanation that they are not
necessary any more...??),  unableing the future affiliation of new
staff for keeping all this important functions alive.
 The professional, technical, and administrative personnel of the
Institute for Microbiology have decided in assembly last December 12,
1996 to protest starting an ongoing strike and a peaceful 24 hour
permanence of all the staff, other affiliated personnel and fired
workers at their site of work. Nevertheless, we are guaranteeing the
free access of personnel, authorities, and patients to the Institute,
the right to work for the few not joining the strike, and the proper
and quick  response in any health emergency.
 Finally we are requesting your international support because
authorities are explaining to the press that the present reform is
similar to other reforms already performed in developed countries to
improve their health systems. Our government does not seem to realize
on the importance of an institution as the INM for the public health
system, so we greatly appreciate if you can send your support by fax
to the following government authorities:

  Dr. Alberto Mazza, Health Minister		54-1-381-6075
  Mr. Jorge Rodriguez, Primer Minister		54-1-331-9658
  Dr. Carlos Saul Menem, President		54-1-342-8618
  Dr. M. C. Freire, President APROINM, 
  Professional Association of the INM		54-1-303-2210

Thanking you for your time and support in advance,

Dr. Maria Cecilia Freire				Ruben Mosquera
President						Internal Committee
       Public Sector Workers Union

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