Peru threatens temporary takeover of private clinics over coronavirus fees

Customers ride an escalator with signs indicating where people should stand, amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a shopping mall in Lima, Peru

Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra threatened on Wednesday to temporarily take over the country’s private healthcare clinics if they failed to strike a deal with the government in 48 hours over fees for treating coronavirus patients.

Private clinics have for three weeks wrangled with Vizcarra’s government over a fair rate for care. The haggling began amid reports of overcharging for the sickest patients who require mechanical ventilators and intensive care.

“We cannot wait indefinitely,” said Vizcarra in a televised speech together with his cabinet of ministers. “With the law and the Constitution on our side we can do it.”

Vizcarra said he would invoke an article in the constitution that allows the government to expropriate private property for national security purposes. The constitution requires “just compensation” for any such takings.

Any takeover would last only as long as the pandemic, he added.

Vizcarra’s ultimatum comes more than 100 days after his government declared a national lockdown to curb the outbreak. The crisis has hammered the country’s economy and brought its healthcare system to the brink of collapse.

Peru’s association of private health care clinics did not immediately respond to Vizcarra’s comments. But the group said in a statement Tuesday the process had been delayed only by legal and administration hang-ups.

Peru has confirmed 264,689 cases of coronavirus and 8,586 deaths. The Andean country’s outbreak is second only to Brazil in Latin America, and the seventh largest worldwide, according to count.

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