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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

Photos posted on social media of an incident in September showed three pregnant and naked women sitting in a waiting room while they waited at the Pastor Oropesa Riera public hospital in the city of Barquisimeto.

The government admitted that the photos were genuine. "There wasn't enough beds for all the women," Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said, explaining why the hospital was forced to turn a waiting room into a delivery room.

Other photos posted on social media showed some patients sleeping in hallways and others receiving treatment while they sat on the blood-stained floors of emergency rooms.

The collapse of the Venezuelan health system is also generating concerns because of a diphtheria outbreak and the absence of a vaccine against the infectious disease.

The Pan American Health Organization reported last week that 447 cases of diphtheria, plus seven fatalities from the disease, had been recorded between the middle of 2016 and the middle of this year.

The number is the highest in the region, far above Haiti, which reported 72 cases this year. The disease was declared eliminated in the oil-producing country in 1992.

The numbers on malaria are even worse, said Rafael Gottenger, president of the Venezuelan American Medical Association.

"Malaria cases are increasing at an alarming rate. The estimate is that this year we will have 800,000, and 1 million next year," said Gottenger, whose organization has long been warning that Venezuela is heading into a humanitarian crisis.

Malaria and diphtheria had both been under control in Venezuela because of a string of preventive measures abandoned in recent years, he said.

The shortage of medicines for treating people already infected means that the lives of thousands of Venezuelans are at risk.

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