Archive for May 22nd, 2016

Venezuela’s Health Crisis Will Be Long Lasting

May 22, 2016

MaduroMarco TorresAristobulo  pa

Maduro with some of the soldiers during the military exercise and the Minister for Feeding, the Vice-President and the Minister of Industry and Commerce participate, some of them dressed in full military dress, even if they were never part of the Armed Forces.

As Maduro and some of his Minister participated this week in “military excercise” which mobilized half a million soldiers and civil militia members, at an estimated cost of US$ 20-30 million, you have to wonder what is going through these people’s minds.  While they spend money on this to make a show of force against a possible foreign invasion, the health crisis Venezuela is experiencing is something unheard of in the modern world.

And what is needed is resources, the same resources being used in these military exercizes and military equipment.

Wasn’t the revolution all about the “people”. Well, the people are dying and will feel the effect of lacks of medicines for a long time.

While we have all heard the calls for medicine xx or yy in Twitter or Facebook, what needs to be understood is that this is not only a crisis today, but something which will have an impact on the health of Venezuelans for years to come. The people above in the pictures, wasting their time and Venezuela’s money are not only ignoring those that die everyday due to the lack of medicines, but they are also sentencing many others to die in the future, due to the absence of the most basic medicines for health problems that can be easily controlled or managed.

These same people, are making daily decisions in Venezuela about which pharmaceutical companies can get limited foreign currency, which are based on their own ill conceived plans for the the development of the Venezuelan economy.

Today, Venezuelans find that even the most basic antibiotics can not be found. Why? Because it is not only that the foreign currency approved is limited, but that there is no health management concept involved in deciding which products get or not foreign currency.

Any rational plan would be based on guaranteeing the basic or essential medicines contained the the lists elaborated by the World Health Organization both for adults and children that can be found here. A lot of experience and thinking has gone into these lists, which are constantly being updated and modified. These are the most basic list of such essential products. However, as you peruse the list, you realize that you know for a fact that you have seen and checked reports that many of them are missing from Venezuela’s drugstores.

Take simple things, like disinfectants and antiseptics. There are a number of them which are only found in insufficient quantities thesedays, such that hospitals have to shut down areas and operating rooms, because there is no way to guarantee that patients can be held in these areas without disinfecting them first. This implies that operations are postponed, patients sent home and people simply die, because simple procedures that will prolong their life can not be provided safely.

Sometimes, not even the reagents needed to perform simple blood tests can be found and patients are turned away even before they can tell why it is they are not feeling well. Sometimes they have to wait weeks before they can have what is considered a simple exam in most, if not all, countries of the world.

And you may ask why if there is such a list, the Maduro Government does not use it? Simple, in the world of Chavismo, which ignores all knowledge and in which non-experts are put in charge of these complex problems, whether you get or not foreign currency has exclusively been determined by two factors in recent months 1) Are you importing raw materials to make the medicines or products in Venezuela? and 2) What products have significant shortages at this moment?

The problem with this criteria, is that not all medicines are produced in Venezuela. Thus, if for example, you ask to import the basic component of a drug against hypertension, which is basically all the final medicine contains, then you don’t get the foreign currency. Problem is, most modern drugs against hypertension are not produced in Venezuela. The result is that, for example, the pharmaceutical I use, has not been available in the country since March 2015, about 14 months ago.

Same with antibiotics. Some antibiotics are produced in Venezuela, but they tend to be old ones that people have developed resistance against, so, yes, you can buy antibiotics, but not necessarily those that may be needed for the particular infection you have.

Ironically, blood and blood plasma products, which used to be produced by Government run Quimbiotec, have not been produced since this plant was shut down last year, as the political battle for control of the plant destroyed the technical capabilities it had. Even in Aporrea, Chavistas call this a national shame, as these products are needed today more than ever due to the presence of Zika and the related Guillian Barre syndrome.

Thus, policies are simply determined using a misguided project for the manufacture of medicines and pharmaceuticals in Venezuela. And in the middle of the implementation of this, the Government discovers something is critically absent and then it stops approving foreign currency for all products, except for one particular sector. For example, last month, I am told the Government only approved foreign currency for manufacturers of contraceptives, which have been absent from drugstores for quite a few months. (Another LONG LASTING effect in the works!)

This haphazard way of doing things is not only killing people today, but will have long lasting effects over the Venezuelan population. As an example, take the same case of medicines against hypertension. Once you start taking one, you are supposed to never stop. Your cardiovascular system will cycle back to high blood pressure and you may have problems. Well, thousands of Venezuelans have had to reduce their dose or simply stop taking these products.

And there are many cases like this.

Thus, the Venezuelan health crisis will be long lasting. It is not only a matter of the damage it is doing today to those getting sick but are unable to do anything about it, but also the damage to those that were taking substances that controlled their illnesses, but can no longer do it.

The crime committed by these people, goes beyond wasting money in useless military exercises that seem more like a parody, but also in making it difficult for humanitarian aid to arrive in the country. While it has not refused yet any aid, none of it has supposedly reached the country because of all of the permits required. This is all done under the excuse that there is no humanitarian crisis to speak of.

When this nightmare is over, if ever, epidemiologists will come to Venezuela to study the effects of withdrawing modern medicine on the population for a certain period of time and see what can be learned from the irresponsible and criminal policies of Chavismo.

IMG_0479Playing hide and seek during military maneuvers. Hope the guys is not allergic, there are no antihistamines either.

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