CARACAS – Dozens of workers at the public Jose Maria Vargas Hospital in Caracas, the oldest healthcare institution in the capital, demonstrated on Monday to protest the ongoing healthcare crisis that is affecting both workers and patients.
The demonstration was staged inside the hospital, where employees chanted slogans demanding fair salaries and the proper staffing and equipping of the hospital, which workers say is operating at “half” its normal level in the operating rooms and specialized care facilities, given that most medicines and necessary medical items are unavailable.
“We have to issue a call to the health minister, Luis Lopez, not to be irresponsible with this country’s health. The critical patients cannot wait, the patients with acute pathologies cannot wait,” Carlos Prosperi, the president of the physicians and residents’ organization at the health center, told reporters.
Prosperi said that the state periodically allocates resources to the hospital that are barely adequate for ongoing operations over a two-week period, and he complained that doctors’ salaries are 600,000 bolivars (about $20 per month at the official exchange rate, according to the auction system of 28,927 bolivars per dollar).
“Where are the pharmaceuticals, the solutions, the treatments that our patients need?” he asked, calling on workers at other hospitals to keep protesting, since in recent weeks similar demonstrations have been staged at other health facilities.
Prosperi stated that some patients have died due to the lack of medicines and problems in caring for them, but he said that did not have a “clear report” of those cases because they are currently under investigation.
During the protest, some patients said that they had been waiting for surgical procedures that had been impossible to schedule due to hospital conditions and reiterated that access to blood supplies was being made more difficult because of the lack of reagents at blood banks.
Meanwhile, the hospital workers and administrative personnel said that their salaries do not even enable them to pay to commute to work on public transportation due to the fact that Venezuela’s inflation rate for 2017 amounted to 2,616 percent, according to figures provided by Parliament.