Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - The governor of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro has declared a health sector emergency after public hospitals began limiting services due to funding shortfalls amid wider state budget woes.
The crisis comes as the metropolis of Rio readies to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in August, raising concerns about the availability of proper care amid an influx of athletes and tourists.
Globo television showed images of the Getulio Vargas Hospital with locks on its doors and a sign indicating that only people at risk of death would be seen.
At another hospital in Mesquita, a woman gave birth on the sidewalk since there was no space for her inside.
Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao's move seeks to speed up funding to cash-strapped hospitals with the help of the central government in order to pay doctors and other staff and cover costs of key medical supplies.
"We hope to normalize payments next week," Pezao told reporters Thursday. "It's not ideal but the minimum required so the network can function."
The dire situation engulfing the state's health sector worsened Monday with the closure of some 15 outpatient clinics (UPA) and certain hospital services.
In letters sent to the Rio Regional Council of Medicine (Cremerj), hospital directors complained of a lack of essential equipment and drugs, causing them to suspend surgeries.
In some hospitals employees have not been paid for four months.
"Rio's hospitals are in a catastrophic situation, we don't have anything to work with," 30-year-old surgical resident Barbara Bastos told AFP.
"We've already had to cancel operations, some pharmacies and emergency rooms have closed, and all that when we have patients in serious condition."
Cremerj president Pablo Vazquez has raised concern about the prospect of problems during the Olympics, which take place August 5 to 21.
"We the doctors are worried -- we don't know if we'll be in a position to care for our population, let alone for the tourists," Vazquez said.
Health Minister Marcelo Castro said six federal hospitals without financial problems will "be at the disposition of the state of Rio" and that doctors and supplies will be transferred to hospitals in need.
The state of Rio, which relies heavily on oil revenue, has been experiencing a budget crisis linked to the fall in crude prices.