The "Surgical Optimization Plan" promoted by the government of Panama initiated. With the program the Ministry of Health pretends to reach the number of 15.853 operations, also supported by the Social Security Fund.
With this goal, the president Juan Carlos Varela allocated $15 million to the Program for Illness and Maternity, the only one program in which the campaign could be held, because it cannot take financial resources from the other three large departments of the public body, according to TVN.
Américo Lombardo, National Executive Director of Health Services and Benefits, alleged to local media that, since the program started –also called “Surgical Zero Arrears”–, 10.000 surgeries have been held.
Doctor Julio García Vala, Deputy General Manager of SSF, pointed out that the major patient complaints on waiting list are cataracts, hernias, hysterectomies and diseases of the gallbladder.
The project has been framed in a series of suggestions against Varela, for having paid public money in expensive surgeries to high officials of his government.
On May 17, local press reported that Panama's National Security Council chief, Rolando López, received more than $17,000 during the first quarter of this year to undergo a foreign operation.
The money came from the Global Appropriations Expenditure Item of the Presidency, which is known as "discretionary", funds that can be used as the president wants, as its name suggests, according to El Comercio.
Another beneficiary was Marien Calviño, a former worker in the family business of the leader who now works in the Ministry of the Presidency.
"The people who have benefited from these funds, which should be used only in cases of emergency, are people who work for the president, who have very high salaries and who can afford the operations themselves," spokeswoman of the Independent Movement for Panama, Annette Planells, said to Efe.
At that time, the activist said that the surgeries have been performed in exclusive hospitals outside of Panama.
The day after López's case was known, Varela announced the project "Surgical Optimization Plan", which continue to register new people.