Venezuelan hospitals in crisis amid political turmoil

Sky News:  

Hyperinflation in Venezuela has led to an economic crisis which is spreading to the health system.

Inflation could top 1,000,000% and doctors have gone on strike amid falling standards.

Sky’s Alex Crawford went inside the hospitals of Venezuela to see how the doctors who are left are coping.

Sky News has gained rare access inside Venezuela’s crumbling health care service and found it struggling to deliver the most basic of care.

Our team saw patients stacked up on hospital trolleys and large sections of the hospital boarded off because of a lack of medics, medicines and supplies. One doctor told us a patient had died just before our arrival because they didn’t have a needle.

The hospital we visit is running with a fraction of the staff as medics have gone on strike demanding higher pay while others have just given up. One doctor told our team she was paid about five million bolivares a month, while a packet of eggs costs her four million.

Dr Emily Montilla said: “We cannot afford to eat. But we are here because of love. We have to help these people.”

The Venezuelan president is struggling to control hyperinflation and stem the flow of tens of thousands of his countrymen and women who are fleeing the social, economic and political turmoil in the nation.

Another student doctor, Margaret Gamboa, told us: “Everything here is so sad… I can’t not help them, because they need help and there is no one here.”

A young man was bent over his dead relative sobbing while we were there. The relatives of many of those who don’t survive here are convinced that but for the national crisis, their loved ones would still be alive.

Other patients were left on stretchers and stored in stairwells and around corners. They’re only accepting emergency cases in this hospital in San Cristobal, Tachira State – but they cannot cope with them.

Nine-year-old Cesar Torres is a tragic example of a healthcare system on its knees. He was admitted with diarrhoea, but while inside the hospital developed several other infections.

When we saw him, he was spending his 66th day in hospital, including two months in intensive care during which he nearly died.

Hygiene has taken a dive because there are no cleaners and little air conditioning. We saw flies everywhere and many of the relatives are having to care for family members themselves.

Every patient has to buy their own bandages, medicines, even gloves. If you can’t afford to, you wait or you miss out.

Cesar has had some help from charity organisations who took pity on him. The charity of strangers is what has saved him.

Even so, he desperately needs a simple anti-fungal antibiotic and the hospital does not have it. And so, he remains bed-ridden, unable to move very much, and underweight.

Every breath is a rasping gasp whistling through his infected tracheotomy.

But Cesar’s father calls his young son a “miracle”.

“Eighty per cent of those in ICU with him died,” Julio Cesar Torres tells us. “There are so many factors that are to blame for this….social, economic, political…”

His young son looks up and mouths “gracias” at him as his father wipes his forehead. And urged on by his father, he waves weakly to us as we leave. Venezuela’s health care is failing him and so many tens of thousands of others.

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