29% of Panamanians paid bribes at a public hospital in the country in 2016, making health care the public service in Panama with the highest level of corruption, according to a study published by Transparency International (TI).
"When services are ineffective and they do not work, there are spaces for corruption," Olga de Obaldía, a representative of the association in Panama, told a press conference on Monday.
The activist explained that many people pay bribes in public hospitals in Panama to avoid queuing in the emergency room, to get a bed in a room, to make an appointment with a specialist or to buy medicine.
"There is a whole internal network to advise that the drugs have arrived, because whoever gets to the box office first gets the medicine," said De Obaldía.
After sanitation, the basic public services where Panamanians paid the most bribes are, by order, schools (26%), police (20%), identity documents (18%), water, health and electrical services (16%) and courts (11%), he said.
The TI study also shows that 57% of the 1,000 people who were surveyed in the country stated that the Panamanian government is not fighting corruption with determination (compared to 53% of the regional average) and that 69% feel socially obliged to report an act of corruption, a figure even to the regional average.
De Obaldía said that the main solution is to strengthen controls within the institutions and get officials to report illegal acts without fear of retaliation, a practice known as whistle-blowing.
"Any person who does his work well in public institutions remains demoralized by the person who does it wrong. There is no way to solve it if you do not have people who can help clean the institution as such," he said.