Nine people, including public hospital staff, have been arrested in Peru, accused of “selling” intensive care beds to desperate coronavirus patients for 82,000 heels (about € 18,000).
The accused – among them the directors of a patient care NGO – were arrested yesterday and appeared in court today, according to police and prosecutors.
Prosecutor Reynaldo Abia told reporters that an investigation was opened following a complaint from a woman who had a family member with Covid-19 and paid for a bed for them.
The gang allegedly asked her for 82,000 heels to put her boyfriend on the waiting list for an intensive care bed at Guillermo Almenara Hospital in Lima.
Peru was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic which earlier this year saw its hospitals under extreme pressure, and oxygen supplies were dwindling.
In April, the country had a record 15,547 coronavirus patients hospitalized at one point, up to about 7,000 today.
With around two million infections and nearly 200,000 deaths, Peru is the country in the world with the highest coronavirus mortality rate.
“It is disgusting that anyone can trade in ICU beds. I believe the punishment should be drastic,” said Health Minister Oscar Ugarte. “We can not negotiate with people’s lives.”
Corruption scandals over virus care have already rocked Peru’s highest energy levels.
Anger over previous claims that some senior officials had been given preferential “VIP” vaccinations prompted the country’s health and foreign ministers to resign earlier this year.
The hospital involved in the latest scandal, administered by the social security system EsSalud, offers free care.
Patients have to endure a long waiting list for the 80 ICU beds the hospital offers.
At the height of the pandemic, many patients were paying large sums of money in private clinics as the public system was collapsing.
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