The Washington Times - December 2, 2010, 09:52AM

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez lauded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assnage as a “brave man” according to El Universal. Mr. Chavez remarked on his state-run TV network VTV: 

“The empire stood naked. I do not know what the United States is going to do. Well, they do not care about this. But how many things have been disclosed! They disrespect their allies with all these spying activities!” Mr. Chavez may be referring to a WikiLeaks cable describing his country’s health care system.


A WikiLeaks cable dated in December of 2009 and released on Sunday describes Venezuela’s medical system in disarray. (All bolding below is mine)

According to the document, Venezuelan doctors accused their government of “politicizing health care at the expense of the health of Venezuelans.” : 

In recent months, protests have paralyzed hospitals across Venezuela as doctors and patients have complained of shortages of medical supplies, delays in hospital renovations and unpaid wages and benefits. Observers describe public hospitals as increasingly dangerous places where underpaid, undersupplied, and understaffed doctors struggle to provide medical services to Venezuela’s poor. Critics say that the GBRV has created a parallel medical system-“Barrio Adentro”-that has sucked resources away from the traditional hospital network and reduced the overall quality of medical services. The GBRV has suspended doctors for speaking out about the crisis while giving former military officers and community councils a greater role in hospital administration.

Circumstances have become so dire within Chavez’s dictatorship that the Venezuelan public hospitals are understaffed by 43 percent since last December. Public hospitals are losing doctors due to those professionals who have left the country to practice elsewhere. The cable describe the conditions health care professionals are working in:

During a private meeting on November 10, XXXXXXXXXXXX, a health reporter for the “El Universal” newspaper, described the public hospitals as increasingly dangerous places, where underpaid, undersupplied, and understaffed doctors work in unsanitary conditions to provide medical services to Venezuela’s poor. Due to shortages of basic medical supplies, doctors ask patients to purchase their own needles, disinfectants and gauze. XXXXXXXXXXXX told EmbOffs that doctors sometimes dress wounds with the same dirty bandages. Other patients are told to bring their own X-rays from private clinics. As in many areas of Caracas, public hospitals suffer from water shortages, forcing doctors to postpone important operations. In some of the older public hospitals, the plumbing systems cannot pump water above the first few floors of the building.

It has been previously reported that 1000’s of doctors were imported from Cuba in 2003 to take pressure off the already broken Venezuela health care system through the program known as “Mission Barrio Adentro” (inside the Neighborhood). The program would provide free health care in rural Venezuelan villages, but Barrio Adentro, according to the 2009 WikiLeaks cable, only made the health care system in Venezuela worse:

To the extent that President Chavez has acknowledged Venezuela’s health care crisis, the GBRV has looked to “Barrio Adentro” and Cuba-and not the public hospitals-as the solution.

Meanwhile, “Barrio Adentro” has not proven to be a viable substitute for the public hospitals despite massive GBRV attention and investment. Indeed, the evidence suggests that all classes of Venezuelans continue to prefer public hospitals to “Barrio Adentro,” even as the quality of medical services in the former has deteriorated. The popular preference for public hospitals means that the traditional medical system must treat a growing number of patients with dwindling resources, a problem that will only intensify if the GBRV decides to eliminate the health care benefit for public employees, forcing them out of the private clinics and into the public hospitals. Another possible consequence is the risk that the GBRV will look to expropriate private sector medical facilities.

Additionally, crime inside public hospitals have influenced the more doctors to leave Venezuela and practice abroad:

Crime has further contributed to the flight of doctors from the public sector. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that criminals go to the public hospitals to rob, steal, and even kill patients. The emergency room in Hospital Vargas is only open for twelve hours-between seven in the morning and seven at night-because of security concerns. In October, a shootout in the emergency room of the Los Magallanes de Catia hospital killed two people. Although the Ministry of Health has promised to send more guards to protect the hospitals, in many cases the additional security has not arrived.