BBC Trending: Should a left-wing president go to a private hospital?

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner Image copyright Chris McGrath/Getty

Here is a dilemma: if a head of state gets sick, should he or she go to a public or a private hospital? Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner chose the latter. In a country where nearly half of the population uses private care, Fernandez's decision might not seem that surprising.

The news of her checking into a private clinic in Buenos Aires raised more than a few eyebrows on social media. Despite repeatedly praising the Argentine public health system, the left-wing leader ended up at Sanatorio Otamendi hospital. And not for the first time.

Tweets like "once again she chooses a clinic and not one of her hospitals" or "Cristina Kirchner hospitalised, on which public hospital?" were retweeted several times over the past few days. However, a picture shared over 1,300 times with the message "The difference between private centre Otamendi and a public hospital" sparked the debate. The image showed one of Otamendi's luxury rooms, looking like a five star hotel, next to one showing a bed in the Eva Peron hospital, which recently closed.

Image copyright Twitter

Carl Boniffatti (@carlbonifatti), who posted the tweet, told me he had both experiences - public and private care. "Otamendi is a real luxury" while his time at a public one wasn't that pleasant. "Touching the walls was disgusting" he said.

Some recalled how two years ago Fernandez stated during a speech: "I'm only saying that there is a public health system when the president goes to a public hospital." And others remembered, during the US government shutdown last year, when she said "we may not be a developed country, but we understand that public health is a State issue."

This is not the first time that Fernandez de Kirchner has been to a private clinic. The 61 year-old president was treated early this year for a hip pain and sciatica and in July for an acute throat infection. Last year she had undergone surgery to treat bleeding on her brain and is most recently suffering from an inflammation of the sigmoid colon. According to local papers, on all of these occasions she stayed at private centres.

BBC Trending requested comment from the Argentine presidential office and Ministry of Health without success.

Ignacio de los Reyes, our man in Buenos Aires, told BBC Trending that over the past few years the health sector has been the priority for Cristina Fernandez's office, but that many of her critics argue that the government has spent the money in an inefficient way. The delay over the years on the building of seven hospitals hasn't helped either.

Reporting by Gabriela Torres

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