Venezuela’s doctors and patients share tales of despair and dismay

‘We feel very helpless because there is nothing’

by Susan Schulman

Image for post
Image for post
Patients wait outside the once-renowned University Hospital in Maracaibo. Susan

‘Patients are dying’

Official figures on emigration are also hard to come by, but in Maracaibo locals say that as many as 60 percent of the 1.6 million residents who lived here in 2015, according to the most recent UN estimates, have left. That figure sounds impossible until you drive through the empty streets, with shuttered back-to-back home decor shops and high-end auto dealers.

Image for post
Dr. Dora Colomenares at the University Hospital of Maracaibo. Susan Schulman/IRIN

‘Yes, the babies die’

University Hospital of Maracaibo is lucky: it has a generator — at least 33 percent of hospitals nationwide don’t, according to the CEPAZ report. However, due to a lack of maintenance and repair, it often doesn’t work. Even when it does, it can’t supply power to the whole hospital for the erratic and often prolonged blackouts.

Image for post
Image for post

‘They let him die like a dog’

Isneudy Romero, 27, knows the failings of Venezuela’s medical system. Shifting uneasily as she stands outside the hospital in Maracaibo, she pushes her dark hair off her face, her eyes darting to make sure no one is listening, and begins to speak of her family’s experience.

‘Of course it is lethal’

Elsewhere in Venezuela, patients aren’t faring much better.

Image for post
Image for post

‘There’s no medicine here’

Some 1,400 kilometres west of Cariaco, the small village of Tucuco sits at the foot of low mountains dense with lush-green foliage and gently shrouded in low clouds.

Image for post
Image for post
The village of Tucuco. Susan Schulman/IRIN
Image for post
Image for post
The corrugated iron home of Herminia Ramirez, far left, in Tucuco. Susan Schulman/IRIN

‘I feel depressed’

As hospital conditions worsen and more facilities close, more and more medical personnel are leaving the country.

Image for post
Image for post
Dr. Piroza at a small hospital in Cumaná. Susan Schulman/IRIN

Written by

The world's leading provider of humanitarian news and analysis

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store