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The healthcare crisis in Venezuela: Oil money, where art thou?

By Maritza Ramirez de Agena | The Devil's Excrement

This article sent to me by a reader of my blog, speaks for itself aboout the state of the healthcare crisis in Venezuela.

Oil money, where art thou? by Maritza Ramirez de Agena

“Hospitals in the oil rich Venezuela have no medicine!” These were the words of a Norwegian reporter from TV2, who visited Vargas Hospital in Venezuela. The persistent reporter and his crew managed, after three days of resistance by President Chavez’s bodyguards, to get close enough to the president during a public event, where he promptly said: Mr. President “I visited a hospital with a lack of medicine, I don’t understand that”.

President Chavez’s response reflected clearly not only his incompetence; but also a premeditated attempt to lie about the chaotic situation faced by the health care institutions in Venezuela: “I do not know to what you are referring… What hospital did you visit? Well, what is important for you to know is that independently of what you found in a particular site, my government has developed a strategic plan that has been already put into place… you know, social programs… for example…”

The reporter proceeded to explain that the president started talking about something else, and turned away allowing his bodyguards to finally push, the TV2 Norwegian news crew, away from President Chavez.

Many Venezuelans, in my opinion, the vast majority of my fellow citizens, are in a survival mode while the president spends millions of dollars on worldwide tours; helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (while Vargas’ “reconstruction” is still in blue print, if so) and financing the spread of his “social revolution” in South and Central America. Meanwhile his own people are dying in hospitals because of a lack of resources.

Not long ago, my family called me from Venezuela to inform me that one of my cousins was seriously ill. Apparently, she had a brain aneurysm. To confirm the diagnosis, my cousin and her closest family members had to make arrangements to travel to a different state, because the hospital in Merida city, did not count with the medical equipment necessary to perform the CT Angiography (a noninvasive way of seeing brain blood vessels), required by the neurologist.

When my cousin got the CT angiography, she returned to Merida where the neurologist confirmed she, indeed, had a brain aneurysm. She had to undergo surgery. Unfortunately, she could not be operated on immediately, as it is required in such critical situations; she had to wait indefinitely -- while hospitalized-- for her turn to use the surgery room. One, two and up to three months can pass by while a Venezuelan citizen awaits for his/her chance to receive the appropriate medical treatment because of lack of surgical materials, medicines, medical equipment and ultimately the lack of availability of beds and surgical rooms due to high demand. After weeks of anguish, frustration and desperation, my cousin went to the surgical room. Unfortunately, my cousin’s operation had been delayed so long that her brain blood vessel was under too much stress. She died of a brain hemorrhage during the surgical procedure. She leaves behind two children and a family who will never understand why in oil rich Venezuela, a country where there is supposedly a “strategic plan” to save us all; she could not do anything but to wait for her death on a hospital bed.

Now, Chavez said to the TV2 reporter that his government had a “strategic plan”, when asked why there were no medicines in the hospital the reported visited. I am thinking, well, it is possible that the only two hospitals with lack of medicine and resources are the “Hospital Universitario de Merida”, where my cousin died, and the hospital visited by the TV2 reporter. The other possibility is that the “strategic plan” conceived by the Chavez administration has taken SIX YEARS to be designed and implemented… Six years to send the hospitals around the country the necessary budget for them to function properly. Let us see, there is no excuse uh? Skyrocketing oil prices! Would not it be great if the president did a “tour” of the hospitals around the country, instead of going to so many exotic places?

Venezuelan hospitals cannot satisfy the high demand of low- income citizens that cannot afford private clinics. Is not this ironic? So much love for the poor, proclaimed by Chavez, and they are the ones abandoned to their luck in the “free Venezuelan hospitals”.

As the doctor interviewed by the TV2 reporter said:

“Someone (else) is keeping the money, because it is obvious the money is coming to Venezuela”.

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