In Venezuelan hospitals, cleaning supplies, drugs, medical equipment, and office paper are all in short supply.
However, despite the fact that this is nothing new in a country ravaged by the current recession and hampered by tough sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, the administration now blames the shortages on “mafias” in the health sector, many of who have been caught and imprisoned on theft charges.
Venezuelan President Maduro has initiated a campaign to combat the purported plague, claiming that it will include sending undercover spies to hospitals to catch staff stealing precious medical equipment and other stuff.
Almost a dozen hospital employees, including some doctors, have already been arrested in a shutdown that has spurred recent protests by medical workers who claim the government is to blame for the shortages.
The government’s charges have added a new wrinkle to long-standing issues at Venezuela’s impoverished hospitals, with patients requiring surgery now having to purchase gloves for medical professionals entering the surgery theaters.
Workers at hospitals who earn below $100 a month have banded together and spent weeks on the streets seeking back pay and better working conditions.
“There are no supplies at hospitals, but the government wants it to appear as if they are delivering those goods so the workers look like thieves,” Pablo Zambrano, executive secretary of the Fetrasalud health workers’ federation, said during a demonstration in Caracas.
To ensure openness, the labor leader asks that each hospital publish a list of what it receives from the government, which has long been accused of withholding health data such as the country’s child mortality rates & maternal issues.
According to Nurse Suarez, the government’s charges are “completely incorrect,” and health personnel is straining to execute their tasks despite a lack of supplies.
However, a female employee at the same institution indicated anonymously that certain workers do steal medical equipment and that an inquiry should be done, but that the union as a whole should not be criminalized.
“We’re going to eliminate all of the mafias in all of the hospitals”. says Mr. Maduro, The Attorney General’s Office, various Cabinet departments, the National Police, and the National Ombudsman’s Office have all joined the fight by giving voice, attending meetings & conferences, and visiting hospitals.
The purpose is to apprehend health workers who charge patients for services or treatments that are meant to be free, steal medical equipment, and practice medicine unlawfully, as well as raise awareness about these issues.
The administration stated it is “refining its techniques” without revealing any information about the strategy or confirming whether the clandestine inspectors have already been sent to hospitals.
“In a country where a strong law decreed” – Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, had forced individuals to act as informants for intelligence agencies and disclose “destabilizing plots,” such as opposition demonstrations, more than a decade ago, “the thought of spies in hospitals is problematic.”