The parents of at least 17 newborn babies at Venezuela’s Dr. Luis Razetti Hospital in Anzoátegui are now dealing with the overwhelming grief of losing a child after an opossum infestation in the hospital’s maternity ward resulted in the deaths of over a dozen babies within a week.
The infestation, Breitbart reported, occurred on the ninth floor of the hospital. The opossums themselves weren’t directly responsible for the deaths of the babies, but the animals carried dangerous bacteria that resulted in widespread infections across the floor. The majority of victims were premature births, with the average child spending only seven months in gestation before birth.
The BBC recently cited an article from the Barcelona newspaper El Norte, which reported that 10 babies had died in just one night because of the infestation. Seven more deaths followed over the next five days.
The parents of these 17 babies were told that their children contracted a “bacterial infection,” which isn’t uncommon at hospitals throughout Venezuela. Especially now that the economy has stagnated and medical supplies are running low — and even depleted entirely in some hospitals — fighting small infections without antibiotics and sterile equipment has become virtually impossible.
Breitbart also cited an article from the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, which reported an eerily similar case around one year ago where 15 newborns in one hospital died of an infection because adequate medical care wasn’t available.
In a country with a stable political environment, an opossum infestation would be grounds for medical malpractice. In the U.S., for example, victims of medical malpractice received $3.6 billion during 2013 — and none of those cases involved high-profile rodent infestations in a hospital.
In Venezuela, it’s a different story. The country’s pharmaceutical industry estimates that at least 70% of the country’s pharmacies lack basic prescription drugs. Many prescription drugs have simply been stolen due to strict government regulations and shortages, while other drugs were never replaced after being sold out.
The Venezuelan government reportedly still owes $4 billion to pharmaceutical companies for imported prescriptions and medical supplies, although inflation has skyrocketed so quickly that Venezuelan currency is virtually worthless. The country currently has no way of repaying its debts to these companies, causing every drug company to refuse to import any more products.