Three newborns die each day: Inside Venezuela’s failing hospitals

  • Country’s leader claims Venezuela has “the best healthcare in the world after Cuba.”
  • Death-rates are increasing and hospitals are filthy with few supplies – including little electricity and antibiotics

Like the South American country’s economy, Venezuela’s hospital system is failing and it’s hitting the poorest in society. Each day up to three newborn babies die. President Nicolas Madura claims the country has “the best healthcare in the world after Cuba,” however, photographs taken by the New York Times tell a different story.

Meridith Kohut/The New York Times
Meridith Kohut/The New York Times

The oil-dependant nation has seen economic collapse since the price of oil plummeted in 2014, causing rolling blackouts and a lack of basic supplies. Everyday items, including food, paper, and electricity have been rationed. Medical facilities have not been excluded and operations have been cancelled.

Lacking in adequate supplies of soap, antibiotics, electricity, gloves, intravenous solutions, and machines, surgeons are finding it increasingly hard to keep their patients alive. The socialist nation has entered a 60 day state of emergency and the president claims little is wrong with healthcare in the socialist country, instead blaming the crisis on outside influence.

Meridith Kohut/The New York Times
Meridith Kohut/The New York Times

Doctors are trying to keep ailing infants alive by hand-pumping air into their lungs for hours. “The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas. He was referring to the toll of the nation’s collapsing healthcare system.

The actions of President Maduro raise fears that the government might collapse, with the opposition leader Henrique Capriles recently calling on the army to choose whether it is “with the constitution or with (President Nicolas) Maduro.”

Mr. Capriles claims the 60-day emergency decree gives the president unconstitutional powers and calls on all Venezuelans to ignore it by taking to the stress on Wednesday.

“We, Venezuelans, will not accept this decree. This is Maduro putting himself above the constitution,” Mr. Capriles told journalists.

Meridith Kohut/The New York Times
Meridith Kohut/The New York Times

The situation in hospitals is so bad, that cancer medications are almost exclusively found on the black market. There is no longer enough clean water to remove blood from surfaces, leaving a large number of areas where bacteria will grow.

“It is like something from the 19th Century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital. The death rate of babies under one month old has increased by over 100 times in public hospitals to just over two percent in 2015, from 0.02 percent in 2012. The rate of death among new mothers increased by five times over the same period.

The New York Times reporter witnessed the death of two babies in the port town of Barcelona. Two premature infants died on the way to the main hospital because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. There are also no open beds, causing patients to lay on floors surrounded by their own blood, no dialysis machines for those in kidney failure, and no functioning X-ray machines.

Meridith Kohut/The New York Times
Meridith Kohut/The New York Times

In the accident and emergency facility at the Luis Razetti Hospital, Dr. Leandro Perez said “Some come here healthy, and they leave dead.” Despite the country having the largest oil reservers in the world, previous governments saved little money for times of economic downturn. Now that prices have collapsed, the result is what’s clear to see in these pictures – Venezuela’s people are dying due to the government’s failure to protect its own people.

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