American Elephants


The Collapse of Government Medicine in Socialist Venezuela by The Elephant's Child

venezuela-is-struggling-with-a-historic-food-shortage
The shelves are bare in Socialist Venezuela. The people are scrambling to find toilet paper, sanitary napkins and disposable diapers. Milk and automobile parts are also in short supply in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Now medical care is in short supply. The country’s 1999 constitution guarantees free universal health care to Venezuelans, yet of the country’s 100 fully functioning public hospitals, nine in 10 have just 7 percent of the supplies they need.

Doctors not allied with the government say many patients began dying from easily treatable illnesses when Venezuela’s downward economic slide accelerated after Chavez’s death from cancer in March. Doctors say it’s impossible to know how many have died, and the government doesn’t keep such numbers, just as it hasn’t published health statistics since 2010.

Almost everything needed to mend and heal is in critically short supply: needles, syringes and paraffin used in biopsies to diagnose cancer; drugs to treat it; operating room equipment; X-ray film and imaging paper; blood and the reagents needed so it can be used for transfusions.

Last month, the government suspended organ donations and transplants. At least 70 percent of radiotherapy machines…are now inoperable in a country with 19,000 cancer patients – meaning fewer than 5,000 can be treated, said Dr. Douglas Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation.

Venezuela has a limited private health care system, but even the 400 private hospitals and clinics are overburdened and strapped for supplies, 95 percent of which have to be imported. The private system has just 8,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 hospital beds, but treats more than half of the country’s patients, including the 10 million public employees with health insurance. Insurers, many of which are state-owned, are four to six months behind in payments and they cannot meet payrolls and pay suppliers.

Worse, government price caps set in July for common procedures are impossible to meet, Rosales said. For example, dialysis treatment was set at 200 bolivars ($30 at the official exchange rate and less than $4 on the black market) for a procedure that costs 5,000 bolivars to administer.

“The health care crisis is an economic crisis. It is not a medical crisis,” said Dr. Jose Luis Lopez, who oversees labs at the Municipal Blood Bank of Caracas.

Single-payer health care is socialized medicine. Obama’s health care advisers were uniformly great admirers of the British National Health Service, probably because medical care that was “free” at the point of service has made the British dependent on government for care, and often returned the Labour party to office. It has evolved into a national shame.

There are always some who believe that health care is so important that it should be socialized, that it should be a “right.” When you have a nation of people who are using health care as much as they want with no restraint, you soon do have an economic crisis.

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