The Healthcare System in Venezuela Is Barely Alive, And This Is Why

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient
For nearly a decade, the Venezuelan government has been proud of its healthcare system; then-President Hugo Chavez never hesitated to explain how his administration was able to revamp the system and provide adequate care to even the poorest citizens.But now, as the Washington Post and Boston Globe note, the country’s healthcare industry — like nearly every industry in Venezuela right now — is in shambles, and is possibly more broken than before Chavez’s reforms.

While over half of the adult American population is primarily concerned with losing weight, Venezuelan residents are turning to the country’s black market to purchase medical equipment and prescription drugs that have been been depleted in hospitals — often at the direction of their own doctors.

American women are willing to shell out thousands of dollars for small cosmetic surgeries and tooth whitening procedures. In contrast, many women in Venezuela are undergoing unnecessary mastectomies, because medical centers have neither the drugs nor the equipment to administer chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer patients.

Additionally, USA Today reports, pharmacies in the Latin American nation are now required to fingerprint their patients in order to keep track of how much medication each person buys.

The Venezuelan government has begun pointing fingers in its attempt to divert the blame for its failing healthcare system, which isn’t surprising, given its pride in the system just a few years ago.

Experts now estimate that about 13,000 doctors have left Venezuela since 2003, making it difficult for citizens — especially those in rural areas — to find fully-staffed medical centers. Rifts between the government and the country’s major pharmaceutical corporations have caused widespread depletion of the most basic medications, and in some cases within the past year, medical facilities simply failed to store medications properly or did not make accurate inventory assessments.

If the Venezuelan government is incapable of making widespread healthcare reforms for the second time in the past decade — and the situation is not looking favorable at the moment — intervention from other countries will likely be necessary, to stabilize the system again.

Until that happens, Venezuelans will continue waiting in pharmacy queues for hours just to be fingerprinted — and possibly turned away empty-handed.