As Venezuelan Healthcare Industry Crumbles, Ebola Outbreak Would Be Disastrous

Entrance to emergency room at hospital
Every country has begun bolstering its line of defense against the Ebola virus as news of outbreaks beyond West Africa (notably, in Spain and the U.S.) causes world leaders across the globe to realize that an epidemic — this epidemic — could very well infiltrate their borders.

These world leaders, many of whom are in charge of countries with crippled economies and civil unrest, are realizing that an Ebola outbreak in their respective homelands probably wouldn’t be handled as cleanly and quickly as the outbreaks in the U.S. and in Spain. There wouldn’t be special hospitals with quarantined rooms, and medical workers might not have the luxury of basic hazmat suits.

Venezuela, in particular, is one of the weakest countries in South America when it comes to health care. The country’s political structure is shaky at best, and most healthcare industry workers have expressed their discontent by going on strike.

These days, most Venezuelans don’t even have access to clean water and electricity; the idea that average civilians might have access to advanced medical supplies and facilities seems absurd. The decrepit healthcare system has already caused a couple of deadly diseases to appear in Venezuela: dengue and chikungunya, both tropical viruses that are spread by mosquitoes, are currently running rampant in the country. Even in a wealthy country like the U.S., where the government can afford to spend millions of dollars on health insurance policies for citizens, the average child is likely to get anywhere from six to 10 colds per year — imagine how much damage a mosquito-spread virus could cause with little (or no) government support.

In the private Venezuelan healthcare industry, 234 institutions have agreed to work with the government, according to the Venezuelan News Agency, to organize a prevention plan for the country, and the Venezuelan Health Minister has recently mandated that all people arriving at the national Vargas airport be screened for the virus before entering the country.

While these measures are good in theory, the real test will be whether or not the country’s government and healthcare system will allow for these measures to take place in practice. As Maria Teresa Romero, journalist and university professor in Venezuela, states in her recent PanAmPost article, an outbreak of Ebola in this particular country would be “an enormous national and regional tragedy.”