f_0020452_17214 - Jeb Blount began reporting from Brazil...

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HEALING PEOPLE, PART II Brazil on $300 a Year Jeb Blount © 2010 World Policy Institute 23 RIO de JANEIRO—My wife and I got used to Lourdes’ annual departures. Our maid’s happy chatter would transform into vague grumblings and complaints about dores nos ossos —the pain in her bones. She’d start in on her cachaça-drinking husband, the alco- holic, and her many humiliations at the hands of the mouthy, pregnant teenage girls who roam Caju, the drug gang-dominated Rio de Janeiro slum, or favela, where she lives. Lourdes would say she missed her eld- erly mother in Paraiba, a poor state in Brazil’s northeast. She’d say it was time to retire. Then we’d pay her and chip in a few extra hundred reais for the four-day bus ride to Paraiba and she’d leave. A few months would pass before Lour- des returned and, after a year, the cycle would repeat itself—the pain in her bones, the humiliation of Caju, the visit to her mother. Then, six years ago, Lourdes didn’t come back. We had all but given up hope of ever hearing from her again when her hus- band Francisco called. “Please, can you help? Lourdes tried to burn down the house and then ran away.” Deep in rural Brazil, Lourdes had been put in a mental hospital. Conditions were appalling, and Francisco helped her escape. But back in Rio, she had another episode. Francisco took her to another mental hospi- tal for observation, and she was committed and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since then, all of her treatment—including drugs and once-a-month counseling—have been free. Today, she is living at home and work- ing for us a few days a week. We give Fran- cisco odd jobs, too. On her meds, Lourdes is her charming old self. All in all, Lourdes’s story wound up a happy one, but her diagnosis might apply to the system that tried to help her: it’s bipo- lar. While new hospitals open throughout the country, the failure to provide the staff or the budget to maintain them has facili- ties falling into neglect just weeks after rib- bons are cut. Thousands of Brazilians who have government—but not private—health coverage wait years for surgery. Doctors ditch their low-paying government jobs to see private patients, and don’t show up for work at public clinics or hospitals. First- class emergency rooms and trauma centers are attached to underfunded, under-staffed, dirty and disorganized hospitals. Universal drug programs for AIDS , hepatitis and tuber- culosis exist alongside wasteful and destruc- tive pharmacy subsidies. Through corrup- Jeb Blount began reporting from Brazil nearly 20 years ago and currently serves as Rio de Janeiro reporter for Platts .
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24 WORLD POLICY JOURNAL • SUMMER 2010 tion and bad management, hundreds of mil- lions of dollars in antibiotics and other im- portant drugs are lost every year. Hey Big Spenders
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f_0020452_17214 - Jeb Blount began reporting from Brazil...

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