Nicaraguan Doctors Questioned for Covid-19 Comments

Doctor José Luis Borgen, one of the doctors summoned by MINSA. Courtesy / Confidencial

The authorities mentioned the Cybercrimes Law. The doctors first received a verbal citation and afterwards they received the summons through their mail.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) summoned three doctors on Thursday to appear before the Sanitary Regulation Department and Legal Office of this institution, according to the summons they received only hours before.

Dr. Jose Luis Borgen, one of the doctors cited, explained that during the interview he was questioned about statements he has given to the media regarding the pandemic.

“They are at a stage in which they are going to summon several medical specialists who at some time expressed their opinions on the pandemic. What they told me that in the opinions voiced in their interviews, they are saying falsehoods and creating alarm in the population. They also cited the new Cybercrime Law noting that MINSA issues a weekly message and that is the official information,” explained Borgen, who is a member of the independent Nicaraguan Medical Unit.

Likewise, they also reminded him that MINSA has “the faculty to inspect the doctor’s office or clinic (where they work) and other things that were left up in the air,” explained Dr. Borgen, who was fired from the Antonio Lenin Fonseca Hospital, in 2018, for being critical of the Ortega Government.

The summons are a warning, doctors believe

The infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Carlos Quant, was another one of those summoned. As he explained to Confidencial, he received the summon on Thursday morning through an E-mail, in which he was requested to present himself that same day at the offices located in the National Health Complex, without explaining the motive.

“They summoned us to tell us there is a group of colleagues who are spreading fake news and that the cybercrime law can be applied to them. They did not refer to me directly, about me going around saying something. Obviously, what we do is provide technical information to the population about the pandemic,” said the doctor after leaving from the interview that lasted 20 minutes.

Dr. Quant said the interview was not an interrogation, but an information session in which they warned him on what might happen. “According to what they told me, the Ministry of Health is the only one that is authorized, and that other information should not be disseminated so as not to cause anguish and anxiety in the population.” He said he does not feel threatened because his information work is based on information available and alerting the population about health care.

Dr. Quant is one of the 10 public hospital doctors that were fired last year for demanding personal protective equipment and warning the population about the increase in Covid-19 infections.

It is known that a female doctor was also summoned, but she preferred not to talk for safety reasons.

First summons to doctors was verbal

Unlike Dr. Quant, who only received the citation by mail, the other two doctors were first summoned through a phone call from lawyer Jose Adan Fley Gonzales, who introduced himself as MINSA’s Director of Legal Affairs. He informed them that he required their presence at the offices located in the National Health Complex, but the doctors requested a formal summons be sent to them to present themselves.

“They summoned me yesterday by phone and what I did was ask him to send me a letter. In the letter they sent me, they did not mention the reason. I hoped that it could be a session on administrative matters since that is what that office is for, although presumably it is an act of intimidation,” pointed out Dr. Borgen, who was summoned to appear at 2:00 pm on Thursday.

On July 13, Dr. Borgen also appeared before the Prosecutor’s Office after being cited for providing medical care to presidential candidate, Maria Asuncion Moreno, who was summoned after indicating that she would compete as a candidate for the opposition, but she did not present herself. Six other presidential candidates are incommunicado in jail.

The doctor denounced that he was forced to violate professional confidentiality because they requested him to provide part of his patient’s medical record.

Murillo threatened doctors and journalists

Prior to these summons, the Vice President, First Lady, and only state spokesperson, Rosario Murillo, threatened independent doctors who have alerted the population about the outbreak of Covid-19. Given this, several doctors left the county or reduced their interviews about it.

“You pay for everything in life and if we do harm, harm will reach us. Let us not expose ourselves to receive the consequences of our actions (…) stop causing harm to the people, families, terrorized by phony doctors, with false prognosis, with false studies, with fake news,” Murillo threatened in her daily monologues.

The threats against health workers happens in the midst of a Covid-19 surge, recognized by MINSA, but minimized in importance.

The government has not released information about tests made or results since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and has been lax about obtaining protective gear for health personal, preferring to ignore the danger of Covid-19. Most of the many thousands of deaths are written off as “undetermined causes” or “atypical pneumonia”.

Meanwhile, Murillo constantly encourages public gatherings of all sizes where most participants do not practice social distancing or wear masks. 

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.