Venezuelan Hospitals’ Condition Worsens: The 2018 National Hospital Poll

Photo: EFE, retrieved

A year ago, the 2017 National Hospital Poll threw a dim light on the bleak reality of our hospital network. Numbers back then were bad, but this year’s results make those look great, as lawmaker (and oncologist) José Manuel Olivares and infectologist Julio Castro acknowledged last Monday in a press conference. They represent the National Assembly and NGO Médicos Por la Salud (Doctors for Health) respectively, the two organizations behind the project that, since 2014, has revealed the data the Venezuelan government refuses to divulge.

This year, 104 public hospitals, along with 33 private clinics, were surveyed across 52 cities in 22 states (only Amazonas and Delta Amacuro failed to report any data), which amounts to a total theoretical capacity of 18,300 beds and 730 operation rooms, of which only a fraction remains operative.

Diagnostic and Nutritional Services

Last year it looked like diagnostic services couldn’t do any worse, but time proved us wrong. Every single one of the four evaluated services is working intermittently or is completely halted in most hospitals. Things are particularly bad with clinical laboratories, affected in literally all health centers evaluated. It’s important to remember that the poll only considers “big” hospitals, where most of these services are mandatory by law.

The results highlight one of the most difficult challenges Venezuelans physicians must face in their daily practice: the almost complete absence of tools universally found everywhere, like X-rays (Rx) or CAT scans, absolutely necessary for a diagnosis.

Nutritional services are also in critical numbers. Halted or working intermittently in 96% of all evaluated centers, there’s an alarming 11% increase compared to last year’s numbers. Infant milk formulas are absent in 66% of all hospitals, unacceptable for vulnerable patients like HIV+ mothers and their babies.

Operation Rooms, Emergencies and ICUs

Only 7,95% of Emergency Rooms in the country are working normally, most of them in private centers. That’s a small increase compared to last year’s 6,72% but, tellingly, the percentage of non-operative ERs went from 6,72% in 2017 to 8,77% today. Operation rooms aren’t doing any better, with  79,37% working intermittently and 15, 19% completely halted. It’s specially grim for highly specialized services such as Intensive Care Units (ICUs), with 14,57% of adult ICUs and 21,95% of pediatric ICUs completely halted, an alarming 8% jump compared to last year.


88% of all hospitals suffer a lack of basic medicines, a 10% increase compared to last year, and an astonishing 33% compared to 2014. A similar scenario is seen with catheters and surgical material.

Individual Hospitals

A nice update from last year’s poll is an improved vision of the situation in specific hospitals throughout the country, a deep glimpse of the crisis, with health centers like Caracas’ University Hospital, Venezuela’s first modern and arguably most iconic hospital, completely lacking things as simple as a clinical laboratory or an x-ray machine, with only four of its ten operating rooms currently working.

Not that surprising, considering the place (like 79% of all hospitals surveyed) doesn’t even have a regular water service. If you think visiting a relative in a public hospital is bad, wait until you use the bathroom after a 12-hour shift.

All indicators, the conference stated, are much worse than four years ago, when the situation was first evaluated. The current collapse of state-subsidized services like water and electricity is now affecting health centers that used to be isolated from the general collapse of infrastructure. Olivares and Castro also mentioned how the crisis is reaching private clinics, for years an oasis for the few who could afford them.

Venezuelan doctors are running out of options and the clock keeps ticking.

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  1. what do you do telling us the same every day? Grab some friends and start shooting the bastards! all you need is a good civil war.

  2. You dennounce, he,she dennounces; we dennounce, They all dennounce…..
    Almost no one acts, almost no one rebels. Those in uniform and with weapons are too busy trafficking drugs and dieesel oil to make a dignified stand. Many preparing to vote like sheep and some are angrily protesting because the CLAP arrived late or incomplete.
    Venezuela invertebrate…. DNA of lambs

  3. “…with health centers like Caracas’ University Hospital,…. completely lacking things as simple as a clinical laboratory or an x-ray machine, with only four of its ten operating rooms currently working. Not that surprising, considering the place (like 79% of all hospitals surveyed) doesn’t even have a regular water service.”

    Jesus! I have a terrible vision of dysentery patients and toilets that won’t flush.

    With weird new, untreatable bugs infecting patients even in the world’s best hospitals, at what point does a deteriorating health center become a health hazard? Ie: at what point does a patient have a better than even chance of leaving the hospital with a new disease that is worse than the one he was admitted for?

  4. The astonishing thing from afar (here in California) is, as mentioned, for all the erudite and insightful denouncing, the country as a whole seems incapable of taking action to change anything. A kind of imposed/learned victimhood, terrible to watch (and hear about from family still in CCS). If the situation is truly as bad as is seems and appears and is reported, how come the paralysis to force change? It won’t come for nothing. The appeal for outside help only prolongs the epic, thought at sometime soon the fallout to the region will force somebody’s hand. But man, this is horrendous to watch. I know how my own people are squeezing by, because we keep sending them money. But how about others who still there without foreign relatives to bail them out. It sounds like two parallel universes – one, who can still blog and travel and get enough food and go to parties and so forth, and the others moldering in the alleys and hospitals. By what means do people actually get by when the money is worthless and the available goods and services are reported to be so bad? From Santa Monica, California (even with daily reports from my people in Venezuela), the situation simply cannot be as described on this site, which sounds like the end of the world.

  5. This is the end of the world for many, including my loved sister who had to abandon her property to carry a more decent life in Chile. That’s precisely the problem, all this CARACAS CHRONICLES is so self-serving and stupidly inconsistent. What is your objective, showing that you’re better than Maduro? In fact, you’re worse off, stop your whining and show some action. But Venezuelans have a reputation of contrabandists and cowardice. I’ll put all of my energy on to demonstrate it.

    • I learned when lived in there (1995 to 2001) a lot of Venezuelans just want party and to look for somebody they can “con” somebody out something. To many of them just want to “taking care of”. It is no surprise, for me, that Venezuela has tuned out to be a land of thieves, liars and murders, when those that can think and do something useful moved out.

  6. Doughboy, you hit the head of the nail. Now they flee the country like rats from a sinking boat and declare themselves ”refugees”. Unfortunately, the prevailing culture over the last 30 years or so, is exactly as you described. And when they say they need change, I think they refer to change of $100 bills to pay the doorboy, etc. Individually, they don’t want to be changed

    • Jose, Good that Sister choose Chile. It much safer. The people that I met from there always want to take of things and are productive (my uncle lived there for 20 years (before and during Pinochet rule). By the way, I liked your country but I don’t miss “Your” countrymen (at least the leeches). My friends from there (former PDVSA workers, all have left (some with guns pointed their heads). I hope for positive resolution for your Country’s situation. (somebody like Pinochet?).

    • Jose, I am happy for Sister’s move. Chile is much safer. I liked your country but didn’t care for the “leeches or cockroaches”. Your need to dig Pinochet out of his grave (my uncle worked in Chile before and during Pinochet era) to straighten things out (Venezuela has a lot baseball / soccer stadiums that you use.

  7. 100 % with you, especially on Pinochet (the main reason why Chile remains more civilized). Venezuela is shithole where rich people love screening up their closest friend/family. They have perfected lying and they can beat lie detectors, face language, whatever. Cons living among Cucarachas and shit. If you come across a Venezuelan citizen, don’t trust anything they tell you, not even in imminent immediate life danger. Somehow they’ll screw you up.

    • I know from personnel experience. I made expensive mistake by getting into taxi cab once in Caracas. Never again!! I prefer Chile by a lot


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