October 30, 2014
Maritza Flores was beside herself. “The doctor said that if I don’t pay $80 for a catheter and a pint of blood, my daughter will die.” These are supplies that Honduran public hospitals are required by law to provide for the poorest of the poor, who cannot pay for private clinics. However, according to AJS investigators, Flores’ plight is shared by millions of Hondurans who depend on the public hospital system in Honduras for health care services and free medication. Beginning in 2012, AJS began to look into corruption in the public medication storehouses. What they found was shocking.
Honduran medication storehouses are a hotbed of corruption and incompetence that leave vulnerable patients, like Maritza Flores’ daughter, without lifesaving treatment.
AJS investigators proved that medications are very poorly inventoried, leaving the door open for storehouse staff to steal medications. In just one case, $50,000 worth of medication was distributed without doing any inventory. Some cases of outright theft have also been recorded. In one well-documented case, 26,000 capsules of insulin disappeared from the storehouse. Finally, medication that is inventoried is stored in poor conditions, like in refrigerators next to employee’s food, and is left to expire.
The AJS investigation created waves in the Honduran government. In March, the President placed the storehouse administrator, a very powerful political figure who had been in the position since 1987 on administrative leave, and had the military guard the storehouses so that employees could not tamper with evidence. AJS employees are currently acting as observers in a thorough inventory of the warehouses, and in the overhaul of the medication storage system.
According to an AJS lawyer working on the investigation, “What the government has done already is a huge accomplishment, considering how long these problems have been going one, but we’re hoping for more.”