Socialism in the 21st century: A closer look at Brazil's universal health care system

Photo: Sinclair Broadcast Group

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Universal health care has been debated for years. In Brazil, they consider free health care the legal right of every citizen.

In our continuing series of reports about Socialism in the 21st century, we traveled to Brazil to see how universal health care functions in their country.

Socialized medicine in Brazil, many believe, is in crisis. Dr. Jose Bonamigo is an elected official with the Brazilian Medical Association he explained that the biggest big federal hospital in Rio de Janeiro is in serious disrepair.

“This is supposed to be the big federal hospital in Rio de Janeiro, and it was supposed to be one of the top three to five hospitals in Brazil,” Bonamigo said.

The hospital was designed for 700-beds but runs around 250 because about half the facility is in bad condition.

"All we can offer is substandard care because the system doesn't have management and money to make things work. So this is the reality,” Bonamigo said.

Tonia Schubert said her mother died following a botched kidney transplant.

“The system gave an old kidney to my mother,” Schubert said. “I blame them totally for my mother’s death.”

The universal system has led to substantial health gains. Brazil has been remarkably successful in controlling the AIDS epidemic, and their vaccination program is widespread and effective.

Dr. Edmar Santos completely renovated his hospital in recent months. He said a major part of the solution to the health care system is better management.

“Our system works well. Not all the time, not in every place,” Santos said. “But it works for everybody.”

But not everybody wants in. Some of the very best private care in the world is available here but for the wealthy. Dr. Joao Pantoja showed us around the Copa Star in Rio.

Inside there are private suites and operating rooms outfitted with state of the art robotics. Although, the vast majority of Brazilians may never set foot into the facility.

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