Venezuela Constructing New Hospitals Across the Country

The Venezuelan government is working on the construction of 15 new hospitals across the country, according to an announcement by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday.

Caracas, August 21, 2007 ( — The Venezuelan government is working on the construction of 15 new hospitals across the country, according to an announcement by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday. The president made the announcement during an inaugural event at the new Latin American Infant Cardiology Hospital in Caracas. Chavez emphasized the new advances as part of the new "socialist" model of health care being built in the country.

"Now is when we are starting to see the face of a new health care system," said Chavez at the event yesterday. The Venezuelan president criticized the abandonment of public health care under previous governments, blaming it on capitalism.

"In the last years of the capitalist era in Venezuela not even one hospital was built, and the old hospitals were abandoned," he explained.

The Chavez government has initiated the construction of a new health care system across the country known as Barrio Adentro (Inside the barrio), based on the Cuban health care system. The new system has been built in several stages of which the third stage consists of the recuperation of existing public hospitals and the fourth stage in the construction new specialized hospitals such as the Latin American Infant Cardiology Hospital.

President Chavez toured the newly opened wing of the children's hospital yesterday that includes space to house more than 200 child patients with 3 floors, 79 rooms, a cafeteria, a computer lab, and an area for immediate medical attention.

This hospital specializes in heart surgery for children ages 0-18 with congenital heart problems and has performed more than 600 heart operations since January, according to officials, and more than one thousand since its inauguration one year ago. Officials said the eventual goal would be to perform more than four thousand operations per year.

The hospital has 4 operating rooms, space to hospitalize up to 142 patients, and the leading technology for treating infant heart conditions, according to the Vice-minister of Health Nancy Perez.

"This is the model of socialism that President Chavez is advancing," she said. "It is socially-oriented medicine. This is the treatment that the national government is giving to the Venezuelan people and Latin America."

President Chavez also spoke of advances being made in the third stage of the health program, Barrio Adentro III. Under this stage, existing hospitals in the country are being reconstructed or reconditioned with new equipment and technology. The first stage of this program will include work on 54 hospitals all around the country.

According to Chavez there are also currently 15 new hospitals under construction around the country. All of these third-tier hospitals will be general hospitals but each one will also be specialized in a certain area.

Chavez said one of these hospitals will be built in front of the infant hospital and will specialize in adult heart problems. Other hospitals will include the National Cancer Center in the state of Miranda, a hospital of Gastroenterology in Merida, a Urology hospital in the state of Guarico, a hospital of Toxicology in Barinas, and a Maternity hospital in Apure.

The president blamed the bureaucracy of previous governments for the bad conditions of the nation's hospitals and pledged to fight bureaucracy in his government to make sure the state entities can be efficient. He criticized the "capitalist" model of health care as "inhumane" and emphasized the need to change away from that model of health care.

"Someone comes to a clinic with a serious condition and the first thing the clinic does is ask for their insurance, their money, their savings account," said Chavez. "Do you think that is humane? That is inhuman and we have to denounce this, to eliminate it. It can't go on like that," he stated.

And although Chavez threatened the possibility of closing or expropriating private clinics that don't treat patients in need, he assured that his government does not plan on eliminating private medicine in the country.

"We don't plan to get to that point, however, we are obligated as the government to regulate private medicine and avoid that degeneration," he said.