Gustavo Palacios ustavopa at interserver.com.ar
Mon Jan 13 22:58:43 EST 1997


Buenos Aires, Argentine

	In 1997 this Institute will suffer a reduction of 37% in its budget for
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" (the
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 producing
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 AIDS,
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  health
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 Òknow howÓ 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 political
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, antigens
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
	The professional, technical, and administrative personnel of the National
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
	Finally we are requesting your international support because government
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

		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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