How is that socialism thing working out for Venezuela?

venezuela1

Not Middlemore, but Venezuela

The opposition like to roll out hard luck stories about our health system. They like to suggest that their particular brand of socialism would fix everything.

You may be tempted to believe them too, until you look at the state of Venezuela’s health system.

By morning, three newborns were already dead.

The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.

Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.

“The death of a baby is our daily bread,” said Dr. Osleidy Camejo, a surgeon in the nation’s capital, Caracas, referring to the toll from Venezuela’s collapsing hospitals.

And here the big scandal is Middlemore hospital isn’t sending newborns home unless they live in a house approved by medical staff.

The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans. It is just part of a larger unraveling here that has become so severe it has prompted President Nicolás Maduro to impose a state of emergency and has raised fears of a government collapse.

Hospital wards have become crucibles where the forces tearing Venezuela apart have converged. Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Often, cancer medicines are found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left.

At the University of the Andes Hospital in the mountain city of Mérida, there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water.

“It is like something from the 19th century,” said Dr. Christian Pino, a surgeon at the hospital.

The figures are devastating. The rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry, to just over 2 percent in 2015 from 0.02 percent in 2012, according to a government report provided by lawmakers.

The rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period, according to the report.

Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks. The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysis machines because they broke long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their blood.

It is a battlefield clinic in a country where there is no war.

Socialism works so well, doesn’t it?

Not North Shore hospital, Venezuela

Not North Shore hospital, but in Venezuela

This nation has the largest oil reserves in the world, yet the government saved little money for hard times when oil prices were high. Now that prices have collapsed — they are around a third what they were in 2014 the consequences are casting a destructive shadow across the country. Lines for food, long a feature of life in Venezuela, now erupt into looting. The bolívar, the country’s currency, is nearly worthless.

The crisis is aggravated by a political feud between Venezuela’s leftists, who control the presidency, and their rivals in congress. The president’s opponents declared a humanitarian crisis in January, and this month passed a law that would allow Venezuela to accept international aid to prop up the health care system.

“This is criminal that we can sit in a country with this much oil, and people are dying for lack of antibiotics,” says Oneida Guaipe, a lawmaker and former hospital union leader.

But Mr. Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez, went on television and rejected the effort, describing the move as a bid to undermine him and privatize the hospital system.

“I doubt that anywhere in the world, except in Cuba, there exists a better health system than this one,” Mr. Maduro said.

Late last fall, the aging pumps that supplied water to the University of the Andes Hospital exploded. They were not repaired for months.

So without water, gloves, soap or antibiotics, a group of surgeons prepared to remove an appendix that was about to burst, even though the operating room was still covered in another patient’s blood.

Even in the capital, only two of nine operating rooms are functioning at the J. M. de los Ríos Children’s Hospital.

“There are people dying for lack of medicine, children dying of malnutrition and others dying because there are no medical personnel,” said Dr. Yamila Battaglini, a surgeon at the hospital.

Makes our health system seem positively first world despite claims by the opposition otherwise.

I have a mate currently in Auckland Hospital in the Orthopaedic ward after his motorcycle crash. I can tell you that the ward looks nothing like this one in Venezuela.

Not Auckland hospital, but Venezuela

Not Auckland hospital, but Venezuela

We don’t know how lucky we are and if you believed teh opposition parties you’d think our health system was like a real socialist paradise like Venezuela’s.

 

-NY Times


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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