Photo: Román Camacho

“Dignified wages now,” yelled doctors outside of Caracas’ hospitals. With their white coats and their stethoscopes, they protested on Tuesday, April 17, in an action that was replicated all over the country. However, what does “dignified wage” mean for a doctor who went to school for five years, went on a rural internship and then specialized in a field?

Venezuelan doctors demand not a wage that allows them luxury, but one that enables them to buy the basic food basket, which, according to the Centro de Documentación y Análisis Social de la Federación Venezolana de Maestros (Cendas FVM) costed 75 million bolivars in March. That’s around 116 dollars by April 23, 2018, when this article was finished. In Venezuela, prominent doctors working eight hours in public hospitals barely make a fraction of that amount.

Their wage to date runs around three million bolivars, all benefits and calls included. That is just 4 dollars. Minimum wage in the region is 272 dollars.

“It’s impossible to buy an egg carton,” said Carlos Prosperi, president of the Medical Association of one of Caracas’ most important hospitals, José María Vargas. And of course it’s impossible an egg carton costs about two dollars. If he buys that, all he’s left with is a few cents, that won’t be enough at the rate inflation escalates in a month in the country.

“What we want is something that will allow us to buy food and medicine. We have two degrees and with my monthly wage I can’t even afford to buy meds for hypertension, that cost one million bolivars,” yelled José Garibaldi, a doctor in JM de los Ríos Hospital.

Their wage to date runs around three million bolivars, all benefits and calls included. That is just 4 dollars. Minimum wage in the region is 272 dollars.

But even physicians ignore if mere wage increase will be enough to get them off the streets, since only thinking about wages simplifies the humanitarian crisis, in terms of health and sanitary measures. What I observed in the protests this Tuesday by the people dedicated to saving lives, is that they want to eat, pay for transportation, buy their uniforms, study and… provide better service.

That’s why they also protested for supplies and medicine.

“That’s the minimum conditions we need to remain in the hospitals, because those institutions aren’t public anymore,” said traumatologist Daniel Peña. “Those are popular clinics, where people have to spend a lot of money to heal. We have no antibiotics, no pain killers, no supplies to properly clean our patients. The government needs to understand that hospitals don’t make money, they make people healthy and for that, medical supplies must be regularly provided. We graduate to serve, I studied five years abroad and came back and I am here doing social work, but with a health system that went back 70 years. Of course I want to do  the best I can, but without meds it’s just impossible.”

Achieving a 272 dollar minimum wage looks like a distant dream, since on their last collective convention, signed in October, 2017, the medical associations that adverse the government weren’t invited and many of the economic clauses have yet to be materialized.

Nevertheless, after three hours of protesting in front on hospitals, they said they will remain firm in their fight. After resources and wages, the list for practicing medicine in Venezuela tackles better infrastructure: even when it comes to something as basic as running water, according to the Encuesta Nacional de Hospitales 2018, proved that 76% of public hospitals in the country lack that service and that 53% of operation rooms are inoperative. They say it’s also about safer conditions at work and about putting an end to aggressions and harassment from hospital directors and surveillance institutions, all of this while they publicly denounce deaths for medicine shortages.

In the end, it’s about respect and the right to live.   

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  1. Sorry Venezuela, thanks to Chavismo squandering your country’s wealth, you are now too poor to afford dignity. You will just have to be grateful for whatever scraps your government decides to throw in your direction.

  2. I am married to a physician. We travel twice a year (on our own dime) to do medical mission work. It is very rewarding for my Venezuelan born physician wife, so I understand that aspect of the medical paradigm.

    However, it is NOT the duty of any human being to work (no matter how rewarding) for the benefit of others. Many patients expect outcomes and sacrifices from these medical providers that they would never hold themselves to. Work 16-20 hour days for pay/benefits that are not commensurate with the talent offered, expecting great outcomes and if not, to be held accountable financially and legally? And in the case of Venezuela, many doctors are threatened?

    Walk away. Some Chavista voters need to sacrifice for a change.

    • Health care is not a “right”. Neither is food, clothing, housing, education.

      These are rights:

      Freedom of religion, of speech; form armed militias; reject occupation of your home; reject search and seizure; reject testimony against oneself; right to trial without undue delay; jury trial; reject unusual fines and punishment; the eight rights above are not exclusive; rights not included pertain to the individual states, not the federal government.

      Venezuela and other socialist countries currently violate many – IF NOT ALL – of the rights listed. If those rights were respected many of those countries’ major problems would disappear. Especially, if the right to private property were respected. This is not suggesting an imposition of “Americanism” on Latin America. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. held these rights to be inalienable, held them to apply to all peoples.

      Personally, I like accounting. Each transaction has a value, and is recorded. With good accounting, published, every corrupt dollar would be traceable and the finger pointed at the corrupt, in the exact amount. The consistency is truth.

      • You forgot to mention the right over which your country fought a war of independence and was then established, as well as a civil war.

        • Which right was that? You seem to be an authority on all things that Americans OUGHT to be. Perhaps we Americans ought to be Canadians?

          Our rights are properly enumerated and exist by virtue of the mere fact that we breath air, as opposed to the rights that your government allows you.

    • My two cents on “rights”:

      Thomas Jefferson got it wrong when he used the phrase “inalienable rights”. All rights are purely human concepts subject to social and political matrix in which the individual lives. We are not divinely endowed with rights. Any right is that privilege which we are individually willing and able to defend, or which our society is willing and able to defend for us.

      The key here is willing AND ABLE. Many people and governments are declaring such things as food, housing, education, healthcare, and other goods and services to be a natural right. They express their willingness to provide these things universally, but without actually having the ability to provide them. They somehow think that by declaring these to be a “right” someone else will automatically provide them.

      The hard fact that no one wishes to grapple with is that every one of your rights comes at someone else’s expense and rights. Your right to healthcare comes at the cost extracting taxes, by force, from others. Thus, you are infringing in people’s rights to their own property. Hell, even your right to life comes at the cost my freedom to kill you! 🙂

      So, rights are transactional in nature. We willingly give up some of our rights to secure others. That is what living in a society entails. But, any society can only provide the rights that they can afford. As an individual, I can declare that I have a right to a mansion and a Maserati, but if I can’t buy them, such a declaration is meaningless (and even pathetic). At the moment, Venezuela’s declaration that healthcare is a right is equally meaningless.

      The real danger in declaring unaffordable things a right is that it diminishes the value of other more basic rights, such as our rights to not be robbed, kidnapped, or murdered.

    • El Guapo,
      If it is at all possible, I would greatly appreciate your MD wife’s assistance.
      One of the families that I assist has a pregnant daughter. She is about 11 weeks. Her doctor said that she needs to be treated with an injection called Rhogam. It is a treatment for RH negative mothers. The first injection needs to be administered at 28 weeks and then another immediately after delivery.
      The medicine can not be frozen and must be held between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
      I will pay the costs for the medicine and to have it sent to Miami in a cooler. From Miami I can send it airfreight into Caracas.
      This is one of the more challenging treatments that I have tried to obtain. The seriousness of the need for this medication can’t be overestimated. Any help would be appreciated.
      If anyone knows how to obtain this and successfully get it to Caracas, please speak up.
      Caracas Chronicles has my permission to provide my contact details.

    • I’m pretty sure it is actually 7 years. The only ones who do less are “medicos” integrales comunitarias, who I thin “study” for 3 years

      • I read a while back that new Brazilian nursing school grads have more ability to offer on the spot medical care than what passes for Cuban doctors. Is that the “medicos” integrales comunitarias you are referring to?

  3. Another sad story.. so sad.. but how is this different than the one about Guyana’s basic industries or pdvsa employees resigning enmass? I agree Dr’s deserve a living wage.. everyone in the country deserves that, but it’s not coming from this dictatorship (please stop writing “government”, this is a dictatorship or failed state at best). But who cares.. I mean really cares enough to do something? To stand up and offer solutions? The Oppo who do offer solutions, and have done so for years, are ignored by the same people who want change… or are waiting for other countries to do the dirty work for you. So suffer, sorry to,say it.. but suffer until you are willing to do something to make it happen.

    BTW, Bill, most if not all expats have fled the empresas mixtas and Venezuela after the arrest of the 2 Chevron employees last week. Bringing in substitutes to avoid being in default of operational agreements. During El Paro in ‘02/‘03 there were many Chavez supporters in pdvsa who kept some oil flowing, but they’ve all deserted the ship. If it was thought production was falling before, this could be a spectacular crash. A Libya without a civil war shot fired. Then there will be more suffering and mass exodus.

  4. 76% of public hospitals don’t have running water–seems like bettering Venezuela’s public health system is like trying to push water uphill–literally.

  5. Hey Mr Bill, remember last week when you assumed the 2 Chevron employees were arrested for involvement in corruption? Details are a bitch.. these two were in a pinch and refused to be involved in the corruption. I standby my original assumption.. Now as IOC expsts flee watch the collspse and misery.. will you never learn?

    “Arrested Chevron workers could face treason charge in Venezuela -sources – Reuters News
    HOUSTON/CARACAS, April 23 (Reuters) – Two Chevron Corp. CVX.N employees detained in Venezuela last week could be charged with treason for refusing to sign a parts contract for a joint venture with state-owned oil company PDVSA, according to two sources familiar with draft charges against the U.S. firm’s executives.
    The arrests, by national intelligence agents, marked the first at a Western oil firm in Venezuela and represent a dramatic escalation of growing tensions between PDVSA and foreign companies over control of supply contracts, the sources told Reuters.
    The widening dispute could worsen operational chaos that has caused the OPEC nation’s oil output to plunge by 23 percent, or 450,000 barrels per day, since October. (Full Story)
    “These detentions are going to accelerate the operational crisis,” another source with knowledge of Chevron’s operations told Reuters. “Procurement could end up in paralysis if nobody wants to take the risk of signing or authorizing anything.”
    The draft treason charges – seen by Chevron lawyers last week, the two sources said – raised concern that the oil major could get caught in the crossfire between Washington and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who accuses the U.S. government of sabotaging the economy to topple his administration. The United States has imposed sanctions on senior members of Maduro’s government and PDVSA.
    The two Chevron employees were jailed when they refused to sign a supply contract written by PDVSA executives under an emergency decree – which skips the competitive bidding process, according to a half dozen sources close to the case. Such decrees have been cited by Venezuela prosecutors as a means of extracting bribes in some recent PDVSA corruption cases.
    The Chevron employees balked when the parts were listed at more than double their market price in a contract worth several million dollars, one of the sources told Reuters. The workers oversaw operations and procurement at Petropiar, an oil upgrading project co-owned by PDVSA and Chevron to transform Orinoco Belt’s extra heavy crude into an exportable product.
    Venezuela’s national intelligence service, Sebin, arrested the Chevron workers, Carlos Algarra and Rene Vasquez, in front of stunned co-workers in a raid of Chevron’s office in Puerto La Cruz and the upgrader on April 16.
    Venezuelan authorities have yet to comment on the arrest of the men, both Venezuelans, and no charges against them have been made public.
    The Venezuela public prosecutor’s office declined to comment, and PDVSA did not respond to several requests for comment.
    The arrests follow a purge that has seen more than 80 executives at PDVSA and its suppliers jailed for alleged corruption as the state firm’s new chief, Major General Manuel Quevedo, has sought to stamp his authority on the sector – the financial lifeblood of Venezuela’s unraveling socialist government.
    Tensions between PDVSA and foreign oil companies have steadily risen since Quevedo took charge in November and appointed military officers who had little or no oil industry experience to senior jobs.
    Foreign firms have pushed for a greater say in procurement to combat inefficiencies and graft, oil industry sources said, but disputes over governance standards have caused operational delays, raising tensions over Venezuela’s falling oil output.
    In February, the Petropiar upgrader had been temporarily halted because of problems scheduling its exports, and PDVSA executives were concerned it could be forced to stop again due to lack of spare parts, one of the sources said.
    When the imported furnace parts did not arrive on time, PDVSA executives blamed the Chevron employees for the delays, according to the two sources familiar with the draft charges.
    The men are being represented by Chevron lawyers. The charges against them have not been formalized and could change, the two sources said.
    A spokesman for Chevron declined to comment.
    Venezuela defines treason as conspiring with foreign enemies against the state and proscribes punishment of up to 30 years in prison. Defendants are not entitled to due process protections afforded to those accused of other crimes, according to the statute.
    As of Sunday, the two men were being held in the offices of the intelligence services in the coastal city of Barcelona, according to the two sources with knowledge of the draft charges.

    The detentions highlight the growing difficulties for foreign oil firms amid a deepening economic crisis in Venezuela, allegations of rampant corruption, a power struggle within PDVSA and an increasingly authoritarian government.
    Reuters reported earlier this month that Maduro had granted extra powers to Quevedo to “create, annul or modify” deals involving state energy company PDVSA and its subsidiaries. (Full Story)
    Foreign oil firms, at a meeting in Caracas this month to discuss how to tackle production problems at joint ventures, expressed their concerns over procurement and governance to Quevedo, according to documents seen by Reuters.
    PDVSA has a minimum 60 percent stake in joint ventures and has been slow to share operational control, despite large-scale staff resignations in recent months.
    About 25,000 PDVSA workers resigned between the start of January 2017 and the end of January 2018, out of a workforce last officially reported at 146,000, Reuters reported last week. The resignations – including high-level professionals that are now almost impossible to replace – have only accelerated since Quevedo arrived, two dozen industry sources told Reuters. (Full Story)
    Oil majors such as Chevron and Eni SpAENI.MI, Total SA TOTF.PA and Repsol SA REP.MC still operate in Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves. Although no foreign workers have been detained in the purge of the sector until last week, some companies have previously withdrawn expatriate workers over security concerns.
    Many foreign workers’ families are reluctant to stay in Venezuela for long periods, one executive from a company operating in the Orinoco Belt told Reuters.
    “We no longer have any guarantee that expatriates will not be sent to jail,” the executive said.”

  6. The genocide in the castro-chaturd colony of cubazuela continues in motion, paving the way for the grand mission TEN MILLION CORPSES.

    • No kidding. It’s a weird notion that some amorphous, costless, entity will magically pay for health care (and education, and housing, and food, and clothes, and, and, and). What happens is that people with money go to the back of the bus as well as paying for others, and since it is “free”, it is also subject to wasteful use. Overall, costs go up (hidden in higher taxes or lack of funds for other uses), and quality and quantity both go down. Muevete tu, pa’ ponerme yo. (Move, so I can take your place.)

      • Having “the right for health” could mean too that people could pay for healthcare.

        That whole “all rights are socialist” things is a simplistic rubbish.

        Yeah, I consider that people should have access to housing, but that means that there should be conditions in the country that allow a person to buy housing within their possibilities and so on.

        • Ulamog – Where did I say that all rights are socialist?? Read the Bill of Rights I posted a link to above! Not trying to pick a fight, because you write good stuff, and in most of it you and I arrive at the same conclusions, but I think you may have typed out words that don’t convey what you actually meant precisely.

          In the U.S. the emergency rooms cannot refuse service in an emergency, but they do try to collect from you!! (Some article somewhere stated that virtually no one in the U.S has no access to medical care they need, and the idea that millions “do not have insurance” does NOT mean they “do not have health care”. So THAT is indeed simplistic rubbish.)

          I totally agree that when someone pays for something, they acquire a right to it – even though sometimes that right gets violated (rip-offs). People in the U.S. buy too much car, too much house, take on too much credit card debt, end up paying twice the sticker price that they would have paid, had they saved the money to pay cash; and then those same people complain that “the economy is bad”. This is a world-wide disease as bad as a financial malaria!! Shoot, I had a friend who bought a Ferrari (yeah, a real one); saw him a few years later driving an economy Ford; asked what happened?? “Sold it. It’s just a car. Gets you from one place to another. You know what the oil change on a Ferrari costs?”

  7. “That whole ‘all rights are socialist’ things is a simplistic rubbish.”

    ?!? Who says that? Socialism has an abysmal record of respecting rights. And, chavismo/marxism prevents people from paying for healthcare (as you say).

    Review the definition of “right.” No right can depend on others to provide it. Rather, actual rights only depend on others not taking them away.

    • “No right can depend on others to provide it.” Great way of putting it. I’ve got a dentist I would like to pay more to, offered more, and the guy refused. He probably thinks I’m stupid.


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