Venezuelan Medical Attention Program for the Poor Hailed by the Pan-American Health Organization

Representatives from international health organizations toured poor neighborhoods in Caracas where the "Barrio Adentro" medical program is being implemented providing basic healthcare for the poor.

International representatives of health related organizations, accompanied by the Mayor of Caracas Freddy Bernal, the Minister of Health, Roger Capella, and the president of the Doctors Association of Caracas, Fernando Bianco, toured several sectors of Caracas, in order to get first hand knowledge about the results of the plan government sponsored plan “Barrio Adentro” (“Deep into the Neighborhood”) to provide medical assistance for the poor.

Mayor Bernal (left) talks to Cuban doctors who work for the Barrio Adentro medical program at the Plan de Manzano neighborhood in western Caracas.
Photo credit: Victor Alvarez

“Barrio Adentro” is a medical program implemented in Caracas by Mayor Freddy Bernal, geared towards bringing basic primary medical care to poor communities that have little of no access to the poorly funded and inefficient public hospitals. The majority of the doctors that work in the program are low paid medical experts from Cuba, although there is now an increasing number of local doctors and from other countries such as Germany.

During the tour, Renato Guzmao and Mirta Roses, high representatives of the Pan-American Health Organization, and the Minister of Health of Aruba, Candelario Wever, recognized the intense work that the Venezuelan government and the Mayor of Caracas are doing with this plan, in order to bring medical attention to the communities.

They visited the so called “Houses of Health and Life” that operate in sectors of the working class Catia district in western Caracas.

Renato Guzmao said that for the Pan-American Health Organization it has been a great pleasure to be in Venezuela overseeing the development of this important social effort in the poor neighborhoods, and for that reason “we getting to know this new and very active program called Barrio Adentro.”

To us, this program is very important, because it is a type of community medical attention, which results from an effort by society and the authorities to care for all the citizens wherever they are, and for that reason is very pleasant to us to accompany the local authorities and recognize their efforts”.

Renato Guzmao, representative of the Pan-American Health Organization.
Photo credit: Victor Alvarez

Guzmao explained that this type of proposal is being promoted by the Pan-American Health Organization in other countries also. “This program has different implementations in each country; each one implements it in its own way. In some, the Plan is called Primary Attention of Health; in other, Family Medicine Plan or Communitarian Call for Health and in Venezuela it is called Barrio Adentro, but the objective of each of those programs is the same, to not leave any citizen out of the health system”.

Guzmao said that his organization is working to promote complete health coverage programs especially in Latin America.

During the tour, the representatives observed how a network of 35 Cuban doctors under the supervision of doctor Arturo de La Torre, met  at a school in the Plan de Manzano neighborhood to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in that community and make decisions to improve it. Plan de Manzano is a very poor neighborhood located in the outskirts of western Caracas, dominated by shanty towns and improvised houses.

New network of popular medical clinics

During the tour with the representatives of the international health organizations to evaluate the operation of the Houses of the Health and Life, Caracas’s Mayor Freddy Bernal said that in November 27 an 28 the city will inaugurate a Network of Popular Clinics, in order to reinforce the primary care implemented through the Barrio Adentro program which benefits the residents of the poor areas of Caracas..

Bernal described as very important the visit by the international representatives of health organizations, “because the Barrio Adentro program is attracting attention, and they agreed that the health policies of the government of President Chavez are going in the right direction.”