in Venezuela doctors die and miss everything before Covid-19

Andrés Barreto Ruiz is an epidemiologist and a member of Medicos Unidos Venezuela.

The deaths of health workers are linked to their working conditions, as they lack everything: N95 masks, conventional surgical masks, face masks, dresses, goggles, gloves … They may need to use the same mask or blouse for a week or more. In addition, there are not enough hydroalcoholic solutions, and the majority of hospitals do not have drinking water 24 hours a day, soap or medical imaging equipment [bien que ces problèmes ne soient pas nouveaux, NDLR].

Applause to greet this time to a doctor who has recovered from Covid-19 in Caracas.

A doctor recovering from Covid-19, in the state of Anzoátegui.

In addition, the authorities lied at the beginning of the pandemic about the number of cases in the country. For example, hospital leaders have tried to hide cases and signed death certificates with false information about the cause of patients’ deaths. Not to mention that there were few tests then. As a result, some healthcare professionals were not necessarily vigilant about protective measures at first, believing that the situation was under control, but then they became aware of their vulnerability, with increasing number of deaths. They have also begun to protest publicly against the lack of protection in some healthcare facilities.

Workers at a Portuguese state hospital protest against the lack of protection.

Protest for the same reason, at a hospital in the state of Nueva Esparta.

Another problem: sometime, [le président vénézuélien] Nicolás Maduro ordered that all patients who tested positive for Covid-19 be hospitalized. also asymptomatic [en juillet, NDLR], which quickly depleted the scarce resources devoted to the fight against the pandemic. At present, I believe that we are “surviving” thanks to the small amount of humanitarian aid entering the country, through the Pan American Health Organization and the Red Cross. But the needs are such that this support largely remains insufficient. In addition, Cuban doctors came to help us [à partir d’août, NDLR]and civil society has organized itself to try to help hospitals.

In mid-July, NGO Médicos Unidos Venezuela and other associations launched a campaign entitled “Protect them from Covid-19”. The goal: to raise money to buy personal protective equipment and disinfectants for the “least protected” healthcare professionals.

Protective equipment is given to workers at a hospital in Caracas thanks to the “Protect them from Covid-19” campaign.

Twelve health workers were arrested for condemning their working conditions

On 18 August, Amnesty International published a communicated deny the fact that the Venezuelan authorities had asked the population to applaud the health workers, but that they “did not do what is necessary” to protect them. She also points out that 12 of them have even been arrested since the pandemic began, because they openly condemned their working conditions.

Applause as he leaves a state hospital in Trujillo as another healthcare professional’s body is transported away under a tarpaulin.

Working conditions already “unacceptable” before the pandemic

The situation for healthcare professionals is all the more sensitive because their working conditions were already extremely precarious before the pandemic, as Virgilio Vasquez, another epidemiologist from Médicos Unidos Venezuela, points out, interviewed by our editorial staff:

Working conditions are unacceptable. When it comes to salary, a doctor earns at most $ 20 a month at the end of his career, which does not even allow him to buy enough food. Due to the lack of public transport, many also go to work or are driven by someone with a vehicle. But with the pandemic, people are afraid to carry passengers. And those who have their own vehicle are forced to queue, sometimes for several days, to refuel. In addition, the shortage of equipment and medicines is chronic.

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In his communicatedAmnesty International reports that health workers earn between $ 4 and $ 18 a month. It also uses figures from Monitor Salud, a civil society organization, according to which 68% of the 296 health workers examined in Caracas between March and June arrived on an empty stomach before taking office. This partly explains why about 50% of the country’s doctors have gone abroad in recent years, according to the Federation of Venezuelan Doctors.

Article written by Chloe Lauvergnier.