A group of parents of children with cancer has broken off talks with the federal government, claiming that their concerns about a shortage of medications are not being taken seriously and that officials have lied to them.
Members of a group of 31 parents that has been meeting with officials at the Interior Ministry (Segob) announced after a meeting on Tuesday that they saw no point in continuing discussions about the lack of pediatric cancer medications that has plagued Mexico’s public health system for months.
“The president needs to come out and acknowledge that there are no medications,” said Omar Hernández.
“He can’t speak with us in private, accept that there is a shortage and then appear at his morning news conferences and say the opposite. We can’t continue with these round table discussions at which they appear to be pulling our leg; they promise that there will be medications but they don’t arrive at the hospitals,” he said.
Israel Rivas Bastidas, another father of a child with cancer, said that the federal government has “let us down” and asserted that continuing to meet with Segob and health officials is pointless “if they don’t carry out what they tell us” they will.
“We think that they don’t understand that it is a complex situation. … The lives of a lot of children are at risk,” he said.
Rivas also said that the parents asked officials to show them the supply of medications they claimed the government has purchased but their request was ignored.
“We demanded that they take us to where the medications are, whether that’s Cofepris [the Federal Commission for Protection Against Sanitary Risk] or the airport. We wanted to see that the medications exist but they turned a deaf ear,” he said.
Parents of cancer sufferers also said that they were disappointed that Interior Minister Olga Sánchez had not attended all the meetings to listen to their concerns about the lack of a range of life-saving drugs including chemotherapy agents and immunosuppressive medications.
“The Interior Minister Olga Sánchez agreed to be at all the meetings – lying to us is a lack of respect,” said Rivas.
“She was at the first meeting but a deputy minister arrived at the second one and there were no medications [to announce]. At the third meeting, we were promised the medications for yesterday [Monday] – they’re taking us for a ride,” he said.
The parents said that that they will continue to file lawsuits aimed at compelling the government to provide an adequate supply of medications for children with cancer and other serious medical conditions.
In response to the complaints, a high-ranking Segob official who met with the parents on Tuesday turned to a well-worn political tactic: he passed the buck.
“The solution is not [the responsibility] of the Interior Ministry, it’s of the Health Ministry,” Fausto Razo said.
For his part, President López Obrador – who has blamed the shortage of medications on resistance from pharmaceutical distributors to the government’s new centralized purchasing system as well as corruption in hospitals and supply problems with drug companies in China and India – responded to the latest complaints as the disgruntled and anxious parents might have expected.
Speaking at his regular news conference on Wednesday, he said that the government is doing “everything that we have to do” to ensure that patients – especially children with cancer – have the medicines they need.
“We have supply now and there won’t be a shortage. Of course, we’re going to solve this problem completely,” López Obrador said.
He also charged that political interests are behind the protests. “There is political opposition to the changes, there is resistance … leaders of political parties are encouraging these movements …”