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Crisis in Venezuelan hospitals: too many patients, too few beds

Antonio Maria Delgado, El Nuevo Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

The health crisis in Venezuela is approaching levels comparable to the poorest nations, with naked women forced to give birth in a waiting room, patients treated on hospital floors and forecasts that hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of dying from malnutrition.

The alarming scenario also includes a shortage of medicines for treating severe diseases like cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, and for containing outbreaks of contagious diseases, such as malaria and diphtheria.

Services are very limited in both public hospitals and private clinics, where shortages of supplies have reduced the number of beds available to little more than 25 percent of what the country needs, according to experts.

But finding a hospital bed is no guarantee that the patient will receive the required treatment because hospitals have less than 5 percent of the supplies and medicines needed to function normally, said Douglas Leon Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation.

"Any Venezuelan who gets sick here in the country today runs the risk of entering a clinic only to have the relatives leave crying" because "there's nothing" in many hospitals, Leon Natera said.

"We have barely 3 or 4 percent of the supplies and medicines (needed), which is really nothing," he said. "And the showcase hospitals, which receive the most resources, may have only 10 to 12 percent."

Pummeled by the collapse of the Chavista economic model and low oil prices, the government of President Nicolas Maduro has put strict limits on the importation of food, medicines and other basic goods.

The lack of supplies has reduced the number of available public hospital beds from 47,000 to 18,000. Private clinics have 7,000 beds, bringing the nationwide total to 25,000.

That's an extremely low number for a country of 30 million people that should have nearly 100,000 beds available.

The shortage of beds has led to risky practices.

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