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FEB. 10, 2020

Chile’s Health Ministry gives details of the scope of the Health Alert for Novel Coronavirus

The measure gives the Health Ministry special faculties so it can rapidly provide resources and take any extraordinary measures that may be needed should there be an outbreak of Novel Coronavirus in Chile.

Acting Health Minister Paula Daza and Healthcare Networks Undersecretary Arturo Zúñiga have given details of the scope of the Health Alert for Novel Coronavirus following its publication in the Official Gazette on Saturday, February 8. The Health Alert has been issued in the context of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern declared by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Health Alert gives the health authorities special faculties so they will be able to rapidly provide the resources and take the extraordinary measures needed should there be an outbreak of Novel Coronavirus in Chile. Among other actions, it facilitates the recruitment of additional health system personnel and accelerated purchasing of supplies, which will help regional health secretariats and the healthcare network to manage any cases that might arise.

“As Novel Coronavirus has now been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations through the International Health Regulations, Chile has decided to declare a Health Alert for the whole country,” said Acting Health Minister Paula Daza. 

She explained that the country is getting ready so that if a case of Novel Coronavirus should arise, the network will be sufficiently prepared to deal with the situation. “We probably will have a case, but what is important is ensuring that it is not propagated. That is why we are taking all these measures,” said the Ms Daza.

The Health Alert gives faculties to the Ministry, its two undersecretaries (healthcare networks and public health), as well as the following autonomous, dependent entities: the Public Health Institute (Instituto de Salud Pública, ISP), the national health system’s procurement center (Cenabast), the national health service (Fonasa) and the Health Superintendent’s Office.

The measure grants extraordinary faculties to the health authorities to enable them to undertake public health actions to prevent and control the impact of the health emergency. It gives them the authority to request and coordinate any collaboration needed to address the situation with other state bodies, like the armed forces and the police.

“One of the faculties the Health Alert has provided is coordination with other state organizations. We have already spoken with some of them, including the armed forces, so as to be able to draw on their capacities. We have met with the army to find out what it can offer, that is their field hospitals, institutional hospital capacity and medical corps throughout Chile,” explained Healthcare Networks Undersecretary Arturo Zúñiga.

The Health Alert provides a number of faculties to the healthcare network, for instance hospitals can reassign clinical services or support units and/or suspend non-urgent surgeries in order to free up beds to care for potential Novel Coronavirus patients in a serious condition.

Undersecretary Zúñiga highlighted the work that is underway to prepare the healthcare network. “Every primary healthcare center and hospital in the network has been trained to receive patients with the illness. We have already made personal protection equipment available, provided training and made available an epidemiological expert. And, if patients are confirmed, we have set up a network of hospitals to which they can be referred,” he said.

The Health Alert also makes it possible for the Health Services to hire former healthcare officials and students in their final years of studying medicine, nursing, obstetrics, pediatric nursing, medical technology, physiotherapy and psychology, should this be necessary.

The Health Alert is valid for a year, but may be terminated early or extended, if needed.