Brazil’s health minister resigns after one month on the job

Brazil’s health minister resigns after one month on the job

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s health minister resigned Friday after less than a month on the job in a sign of continuing upheaval over how the nation should battle the coronavirus pandemic, quitting a day after President Jair Bolsonaro stepped up pressure on him to expand use of the antimalarial drug chloroquine in treating patients.

Dr. Nelson Teich, an oncologist and health care consultant, took the job April 17 faced with the task of aligning the ministry’s actions with the president’s view that Brazil’s economy must not be destroyed by restrictions to control spread of the virus.

Teich’s predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, also had rejected the use of chloroquine, which also had been touted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment.

Four government ministers who spoke after Teich’s resignation defended the idea of patients being allowed to use the drug if they want to, including Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and the Cabinet chief of staff, Gen. Walter Braga Netto.

Officials say almost 15,000 people have died in Brazil from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, though some experts say the figure is significantly higher due to insufficient testing. The peak of the crisis has yet to hit Latin America’s largest nation, experts say.

Gen. Eduardo Pazuello, who had no health experience until he became the Health Ministry’s No. 2 official in April, will be the interim minister until Bolsonaro chooses a replacement. Brazilian media have said that Teich’s ability to do his job had been weakened by the appointment of dozens of military personnel to jobs in the ministry.

“Life is made up of choices and today I decided to leave,” Teich told journalists in capital Brasilia. He did not explain why he left the job and refused to answer questions.

Braga Netto, the Cabinet chief, said Teich left the job “for personal reasons.” Bolsonaro did not comment.

Teich’s resignation came one day after Bolsonaro told business leaders in a videoconference he would ease rules for using chloroquine to treat people infected with the coronavirus. Teich has frequently called use of the drug “an uncertainty,” and this week warned of its side effects.

The Health Ministry previously allowed chloroquine to be used in coronavirus cases only for patients hospitalized in serious condition.

At Bolsonaro’s urging, the country’s Army Chemical and Pharmaceutical Laboratory boosted chloroquine production in late March.

Researchers last month reported no benefit in a large analysis of the drug or a related substance, hydroxychloroquine, in U.S. hospitals for veterans. Last month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a study of chloroquine after heart rhythm problems developed in one quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

Governors who have recommended quarantine measures and refrained from touting the drug’s unproven potential said Teich’s resignation reflects Bolsonaro’s failure to manage the pandemic.

Rio de Janeiro Gov. Wilson Witzel, a former ally of Bolsonaro, said “no one can do serious work with interference in ministries.” “That is why governors and mayors need to lead the pandemic crisis, and not you, Mr. President,” Witzel said on Twitter.

The governor of Ceara, one of Brazil’s most hard-hit states, said Teich’s exit “brings enormous insecurity and concern.”

“It is unacceptable that in the face of this serious health crisis, the focus of the government is still on political and ideological discussions. That is an affront to the nation,” Camilo Santana said.

On April 16, Bolsonaro fired Teich’s predecessor, Mandetta, who had become the embodiment of challenges to the president’s opposition to governors’ quarantine recommendations and restrictions on businesses. Bolsonaro was eager to resume economic activity and warned failure to do so would cause Brazil to descend into “chaos”.

Teich took office pledging to balance health care concerns and the president’s economic worries. He did not openly challenge the president’s views, but did defend stay-at-home measures.

Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s non-profit Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said Teich wasn’t able to build his own team, didn’t have Mandetta’s political strength and wasn’t willing to violate the scientific recommendations.

“He clearly had limitations,” Lago said. “He would not challenge what has been consensus among the scientific community. He would never accept the chloroquine thing that Bolsonaro wanted him to do, to recommend publicly that chloroquine was a remedy to be used in the public health system.”

Hours after Teich left the job, the Health Ministry began listing figures on chloroquine distribution as part of its main charts about government initiatives against the pandemic, alongside intensive care unit beds, personal protection equipment, tests and flu vaccines.

Risk consultancy Eurasia Group analyst Filipe Gruppelli Carvalho said that the Health Ministry’s capacity for ”an effective co-ordinating role looks to have dropped with Mandetta’s exit,” .

“Ultimately, Teich’s dismissal reinforces our view of increasing risks from the government’s poor response to the pandemic, which could contribute to a weaker presidency and decline in support for Bolsonaro in the post-pandemic phase,” he said.

The newspaper Folha de S.Paulo published an editorial after Teich’s exit saying Bolsonaro is trying to “put his own survival above state policies and national interest.”

“The resignation of another health minister — in less than a month and during the most serious sanitary emergency of contemporary history — exposes the downfall of a president that doesnt’t even pretend to govern the country,” the newspaper said. “As if the economic and sanitary calamities were not enough, he turned himself into a crisis to be faced.”

After Teich’s resignation was announced, pot-banging protests were heard in different regions of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

_____

Associated Press writers David Biller and Diane Jeantet in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Mauricio Savarese, The Associated Press

Brazil

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Paved path to the accessible dock at Agur Lake Camp. Photo submitted/ Debbie Schneider.
B.C. Camp extremely grateful for a Calmar Business’ generous donation

B.C.’s only fully accessible campground floored by a Calmar Business’ generosity.

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still hopeful about the Keystone pipeline if there’s a change in government in the U.S. next month, saying Alberta has been engaging with American officials from both sides of the aisle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carolyn Kaster
Alberta premier says he’s still hopeful about Keystone, even if Biden elected

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project

Most Read