Authorities in Peru say they have busted a gang that charged the desperate relatives of COVID patients vast amounts of money for beds in the intensive care unit in a public hospital. Prosecutor Reynaldo Abia says nine people arrested Wednesday include administrators of Lima's Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen hospital, which is supposed to provide free care, reports Reuters. Abia said police had received a complaint from a man who said he had been asked for the equivalent of almost $21,000 to secure a bed for his brother in the COVID ward.
Authorities said the hospital gang was known as the "Black Angels," the Rio Times reports. Oscar Ugarte, the country's health minister, said the "sanction must be drastic" for those involved in the scheme. "It is abominable that someone could negotiate with ICU beds," he said. Peru, which was hit hard by the lambda COVID variant, has the world's highest COVID death rate per 100,000 people. The number of available ICU beds in the country has increased since the early months of the pandemic, when the health system was overwhelmed, but there is still a long waiting list for the 80 beds in the COVID unit at the Irigoyen hospital, Reuters notes. (Read more Peru stories.)