Venezuela: Improving Health Services Nationwide

In a move that will see yet greater funding applied to essential public services, the Venezuelan government announced a series of initiatives last week intended to strengthen the Caribbean nation’s growing health care infrastructure and expand access to residents in the state of Aragua.

By Correo del Orinoco
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Eugenia Sader, Venezuelan Health Minister, informed on Sunday that 28 hospitals will be the beneficiaries of 51 million bolivars ($11.8 million) allocated by the national government to be put to use on renovation projects for the public facilities.

“We’re finishing the remodelling of clinics and high technology centers. In total, there will be 28 hospitals that we’ll be updating in the state of Aragua. Nineteen public works are being carried out by the Health Ministry in which 43 million bolivars ($10 million) have been invested. The remaining work is being done by the mayors’ offices with additional credits”, Sader announced during the inauguration of a physical rehabilitation center named “Aguacatal” in the city of Maracay.

The Aguacatal rehab center is the 42nd of its kind to be inaugurated in the state since June and is staffed by Cuban doctors and therapists who will provide free universal care for Venezuelan patients.

“For people of scant resources, to have this free rehabilitation center is a blessing because we don’t have the money to pay the high prices of private clinics”, said community member Richard Tarazona during the facility’s inauguration.

Cuban Aid

Currently, some thirty thousand Cuban health care professionals are working in Venezuela as part of a international agreement signed between the two nations that provides the Caribbean island with much needed oil in exchange for expertise in the areas of medicine, agriculture and sports. Barrio Adentro, the Chavez government’s flagship health care program staffed by both Cubans and Venezuelans, is part of this agreement and ensures access to free universal coverage for all residents in the South American country.

Now in its eight year of existence, Barrio Adentro has treated more than 60 million patients in its more than 6,700 clinics throughout Venezuela. The program has focused on providing primary care to previously excluded populations and includes high technology centers with advanced medical equipment as well as special pediatric, maternity and infant attention facilities.

“These types of medical services are denied to the people living under capitalism”, Minister Sader said of Venezuela’s public health initiatives on Sunday. “Only in Revolution is it possible that Venezuelans can enjoy a free health care system”, she affirmed.

China

Other health care projects currently being undertaken by the Venezuelan government include the construction of a pharmaceutical warehouse in the municipality of Jose Angel Lamas, also in the state of Aragua. The 48 thousand square meter facility, the first of five medical warehouses to be built in the country, is the product of an international agreement signed between China and Venezuela valued at just under $864 million. Construction is slated to begin this month and, once finished, the depot will have the capacity to supply five surrounding states with prescription and over the counter drugs.

The Chinese consortium ZTE, one of the largest telecommunication firms in the world, is spearheading the project which, according to company executives, will be comprised of state of the art technology to ensure the availability of essential pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for the Venezuelan people.

“In these warehouses, robotic systems will automate the reception and stocking while, in the process, they will identify the content of the boxes and send the information to a database to be reviewed by the Health Ministry”, ZTE representatives informed.

As part of the agreement, China will also provide medical supplies, surgical equipment and drugs at reduced prices to the Venezuelan government, translating into savings for ordinary citizens.

Modernization of Hospitals

During an interview broadcast by the state television channel VTV on Monday, Minister Sader reported that in addition to the public works taking place in the state of Aragua, the national government has embarked on a total of 812 projects in 141 hospitals throughout the national territory to improve the country’s medical infrastructure.

In total, the official explained, the Chavez administration has approved over 1.5 billion bolivars ($348 million) for the public projects which seek to revamp and modernized many of the nation’s public hospitals and clinics. Sader also drew attention during the interview to the attempts by some private contractors with ties to organized mafias to derail the public works, encouraging Venezuelan community members to oversee the progress of the projects and report any irregularities.

“We’re making a call to the Venezuelan people to not allow any dark interests to impede the work that we’re doing in the hospitals. We’ve come across acts of sabotage by unscrupulous people who claim to be members of unions, who through the use of arms are blocking workers from the job”, she said.

Ten Years of Humane Healthcare

Notwithstanding the stories of larceny and threats employed by corrupt sectors to derail the public projects, Sader expressed her contentment with the Health Ministry’s work and praised the initiatives of the Chavez government which has made quality health care a national priority for over ten years.

Speaking of the 8,400 new Venezuelan community doctors that will graduate from Cuban medical programs this year, the health minister contrasted the treatment that patients will receive from professionals trained in humanistic ethics versus those forced to operate under capitalist conditions.

“The public clinics will be equipped with doctors who will be prioritizing life and helping people in the spirit of solidarity and love for the patient, not allowing the sense of economic finance to prevail over the health and life of human beings”, she affirmed.