Some of the biggest challenges the country has faced relate to the access to the health system, along with infrastructure, and the differences in the numbers of facilities and in the number of professionals per inhabitant depending on the region of the country.
WHO defines the right to health for all people as the right to have access for everyone to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. Argentina has tried to implement policies regarding the access and the quality of the public health services, taking into consideration the big progress it has already made in terms of health care coverage.
The previous Health Minister Adolfo Rubinstein, during an interview in 2018 explained that 100% of the Argentine population has the right to be attended to in any establishment of the country’s public system. However, he then stated that this does not mean that there are no geographical or cultural barriers that hinder timely care, and that there are still very important differences in outcomes between the poorest and richest provinces.
The health care system in Argentina is made up of the public, private, and social security sectors. However, there is a big difference in quality between the public and the private sector, specifically in the most unprivileged sectors of the society.
The infrastructure for the health system in Argentina, in regards of the distribution of the facilities and the professionals, is very problematic.
The country has 25,751 health facilities, half of which are only in the Pampas Region of Argentina. One of the biggest problems that needs addressing, is the lack of health facilities in rural regions, where most of the people with economic disadvantages live. The large distances that are needed to travel to get to a hospital or medical center, become a huge barrier for the people to seek medical assistance. Furthermore, in terms of the number of doctors per inhabitant, there are large inequities from region to region. For example, the Pampas region has more than twice the number of doctors per inhabitant than the Northeast and Northwest regions.
There was a big improvement in this area, however, with the promotion and implementation of Primary Health Care Centers, specifically in the regions where there were the biggest problems in terms of accessibility. In the Northwest and Northeast for example, there was a vast investment and they have the highest frequency of these centers, with 39.41 and 32.50 per 100,000 inhabitants respectively. This strategy promotes access to other levels and arrangements of health care that are accessible and effective for the entire community. However, these regions, still showed a predominance of those without regular medical care.
Nevertheless, the reports of the Argentine Bicentennial Social Debt Barometer (2011-2017) suggest that the heterogeneity and social inequality that still prevails in the country are reproduced both in the general health conditions of individuals and communities and in the system that serves them. Accessibility to the system, consequentially, is conditioned by geographical, economic, legal, social and cultural factors and also by the presence of the services on offer.
In conclusion, Argentina’s main problem of access to health services lies in the notorious differences in opportunities, and the response must be to implement more health policies, taking into consideration the necessities of the inhabitants and the current situation. There are outstanding initiatives that are in progress, such as the second health operation or telemedicine actions, and the telepediatrics program at Garrahan Public Hospital, and others such as the Primary Health Care Centers that have been already implemented. Nonetheless, there are still a lot to improve.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.