Venezuelan Government Commits to Addressing “Difficulties” in Public Health System

The Venezuelan government has committed to addressing “difficulties” in the public hospital system after some doctors’ groups complained that a lack of supplies and equipment are affecting patient treatment.

By Ewan Robertson
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The Venezuelan government has committed to addressing “difficulties” in the public hospital system (Silvino Castrillo)
The Venezuelan government has committed to addressing “difficulties” in the public hospital system (Silvino Castrillo)

Caracas, 1st September (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has committed to addressing “difficulties” in the public hospital system after some doctors’ groups complained that a lack of supplies and equipment are affecting patient treatment.

Last Wednesday a group of doctors called “Doctors for Health” gave a press conference in which the organisation denounced a lack of equipment, supplies and capacity in the country’s public health system.

The group, composed of doctors working in public hospitals, claimed that “the National Health Service isn’t free” because patients in some cases have to pay for their own medical supplies or resort to the private sector for certain stages of their treatment.

“We’re indignant and frustrated because we’re the ones who show face to millions of Venezuelans to tell them there aren’t [adequate medical supplies]”, said Dr. Ricardo Strauss, a member of the group.

Doctors for Health further stated that they were preparing a document with all complaints and incidents of lack of supplies in public hospitals to be presented to authorities.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the president of the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation, Freddy Ceballos, warned that the pharmaceutical sector was experiencing problems in the distribution of up to 40% of medicines.

Speaking on private channel Venevision, the industry representative said that the pharmaceutical market “is being maintained intermittently”, blaming the situation on lack of government-granted foreign currency for imports.

In an interview last Friday, Health Minister Isabel Iturria dismissed charges that there exists a “crisis” in Venezuela’s public health system, but conceded that there have emerged “difficulties” which the government is committed to addressing.

“Of course there are difficulties in hospitals, undoubtedly, but the difficulties are handled by working out different plans for the different levels of treatment, and, just like anywhere else in the world, we have to start with the first stage of treatment," the minster said to press.

Last Tuesday the government created a body called the “Greater Health Staff” to correct problems and optimise the functioning of Venezuela’s public hospitals.

“This is an excellent opportunity to coordinate all state institutions…to solve problems and construct a better health system,” said Dr. Francisco Armada, who participates in public health planning.

The Greater Health Staff will focus on specific tasks such as repairs to hospital infrastructure and ensuring the provision of supplies and equipment to hospitals. It will first work with 11 of Venezuela’s 241 public hospitals, to be extended thereafter.

Health Minister Iturria also argued that the functioning of Venezuela’s public health system can be judged by the improvement of health indicators under the Bolivarian government, such as the fall in infant mortality from 22 per 1000 live births in 1998 to 14 per 1000 live births currently.

Along with expanding public healthcare provision since 2003 under the Barrio Adentro system with help from Cuba, the administration of Hugo Chavez also trained 14,000 new doctors in the new Comprehensive Community Medicine (MIC) program.

A further 20,000 community doctors are currently in training and expected to graduate during the next five years, to then work in community clinics and public hospitals throughout the country.