Fri, Nov 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Venezuela government healthcare leaves patients to own devices

Experts say the policies of Hugo Chavez have created the country’s healthcare meltdown, which critics say is an economic crisis, not a medical one

By Frank Bajak  /  AP, MARACAY, Venezuela

It does not vaccinate or do PAP smears for uterine cancer, while the Chavista system reversed important gains against tropical diseases, including malaria, Oletta said. Dengue fever, he said, is making a worrisome comeback. The number of women dying in childbirth has also risen to 69 per 100,000 in 2010, from 51 per 100,000 in 1998.

Under Chavez, Venezuela began buying most of its medical equipment through Cuba, China and Argentina. That has led to considerable waste because it is cheaper to buy direct from the manufacturers, critics say.

Venezuelan Ministry of Health oncology chief Morella Rebolledo said the ministry is negotiating with Argentine maintenance contractors for the idled radiotherapy machines that had lapsed.

Back home in San Mateo, a 90-minute bus ride away in a neighborhood where even the dogs look hungry, Evelina Gonzalez sits outside the tin-roofed, plywood-walled, two-room shack she shares with her family of five. Because her last chemotherapy was in June, she needs more sessions before surgery, but the drugs are not available and the cancer has reached lymph nodes in her armpit.

Gonzalez says she adored Chavez for his anti-poverty programs, always voted for him and constantly applied for government benefits, though she never received any.

She has a good chance of survival if she gets the right care, Gutierrez said. However, that is not happening.

“I’ve got nowhere else to turn,” Gonzalez says.

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