No electricity, no antibiotics, no beds, no soap: A devastating look inside Venezuela’s crisis-hit hospitals where 7 babies die a day, bleeding patients lie strewn on the floor, and doctors try to operate without tools
The impact of Venezuela’s economic collapse on its people is almost impossible to put into words. But these images inside calamity-hit hospitals go some way to communicating the devastation. Since oil prices plummeted, all aspects of everyday life – electricity, food, paper – have been rationed. Critically, medical centers are in crisis. Without soap, antibiotics, power, gloves and x-rays, surgeons are struggling to keep patients alive.
Pictures taken by New York Times photographer Meridith Kohut offer a glimpse inside some of the most notorious centers – while President Nicolas Maduro claims the socialist nation has the best healthcare in the world.
Life on hold: Julio Rafael Parucho, who suffered a serious head injury, and has had to wait a year for a follow-up operation because of a shortage of doctors in Puerto la Cruz
Without electricity or functioning machines, medics have had to create their own solutions. Two men who had surgery on their legs have their limbs elevated by makeshift slings made out of water bottles. One man is missing half his skull after a severe head injury a year ago. He is still waiting for post-surgery treatment. Last summer, the Daily Mail reported how rampant opossums had infested the Luiz Razetti Hospital, killing 17 newborns.
That was just the start of months of misery at the center, according to the New York Times.
Lack of supplies: Jugs and soda bottles that doctors at Luis Razetti Hospital rigged to treat patients with broken legs in Puerto la Cruz
No beds: Nicolas Espinoza’s daughter sleeps in the children’s cancer ward at Luis Razetti Hospital
Marbelis Reinoso with her daughter, who has asthma, at a government-run clinic in Catia La Mar, Venezuela in April
Patients rest where they can in little comfort in the hallways at the overcrowded public hospital in Merida, Venezuela, in January
In just one day, the newspaper’s reporters witnessed the deaths of seven babies since there were no oxygen tanks, and doctors had to pump air into their lungs by hand.
A 68-year-old diabetic patient interviewed has to have her leg amputated; the hospital did not have dialysis machines or the antibiotics she requires.
One had to have an almost-rupturing appendix removed without proper tools or sanitation. Another died because the blood bank was closed due to a public holiday, which was randomly called by the government to save electricity.
President Nicolas Maduro has refused attempts to seek international or monetary support for the country’s healthcare system that he says would effectively ‘privatize’ healthcare.
The socialist leader, Hugo Chavez’s successor, claims such a move would have devastating impacts on the country.
And he even insists Venezuela’s healthcare is one of the best in the world: ‘I doubt that anywhere in the world, except in Cuba, there exists a better health system than this one,’ he said.
In denial: President Nicolas Maduro has refused attempts to seek international or monetary support for the country’s healthcare system. He insists theirs is the ‘best in the world’ after Cuba
Since the economic collapse began to take hold of the country, Maduro has dedicated many of his speeches to boasting of Venezuela’s strengths, and lashing out at other countries.
Like his late predecessor, Maduro regularly accuses the US of spying and illegal intervention.
On Tuesday, he told a press conference a U.S. military aircraft ‘with lethal technical abilities’ illegally entered Venezuelan airspace twice in seven days.
‘Our military aviation detected the illegal entry, for unusual espionage tasks, of the Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry, which is an airborne early warning control center system that has all the mechanisms for espionage,’ he told reporters at the presidential palace.