Research and writting Armando Altuve, Jesymar Áñez Nava y Patzzy Salazar.
It is not the first time that Virginia thanks that her three brothers have migrated. The financial help was so much meaning when her father spent 17 days in the main hospital in Monagas in Eastern Venezuela. During that time, she saw how five men hospitalized next to her father, with a COVID-19 diagnosis, died. Her father not only survived the diseases but also to an unprovided public health system. His children in Chile and Argentina covered the expenses while he was confined.
To get sick from the virus in Venezuela forces families, as the Virginia one, to enormous expenses to cover treatments, tests, and even strict medical care when the patients get a severe infection. The hyperinflation and the weak economy leave the Venezuelans to the fate of solidarity and exposes to a public health system with no medicines nor supplies.
Virginia lived this crisis in her flesh. In the health-care center, his father only received one of the six types of medicines that he required for his recovery. That dose was barely enough for three days of treatment and not for the two weeks of hospitalization. “The hospital is an underworld where the worker survives. I paid to one of them to get a bed for my father; to another one, I paid for a better place in the line for the X-Ray.”
The COVID-19 virus threatens the already low incomes in the Venezuelan homes if one of their members gets sick. The new virus circulates in a country where 96,2% of the population is pauper, and its salary is dust, not enough to buy food, much fewer medicines, as the Live Conditions Survey, carried out by three prestigious colleges in the country revealed this 2020.
As the number of cases increases, also the cost of medicines and tests do. Between September 1 and October 11, journalists from El Pitazo checked the prices of medicines for COVID-19 patients in 60 pharmacies, like so the costs of radiology and imaging studies in 46 private centers and the services of hospitalization in 30 clinics. The consulting was in seven states of the country (Apure, Bolívar, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Táchira, Zulia) and the Capital District.
The monitoring was in four of the states where are more contagious cases and others where the rate no does exceed 1,200. The amounts expressed in dollars got calculated to the no official reference rate of BF 440,000 per dollar during October 5 and 9.
The data analysis allowed concluding that to cover 15 days of treatment, an asymptomatic patient spends between $ 258.15 and $ 292.29.
In phase I of the disease, he invests between $510.62 and $550.83. In phase II, between $ 58,714.02 and $ 58,769.05. Finally, with a more worrying condition that requires intensive care, it allocates between $64,876.44 and $65,959.93, including medicines, X-rays, CT scans, and medical attention.
Social media help
Scarcity with the inability to afford the medicines and tests not available in public hospitals leads Venezuelan to cling to the goodwill and solidarity of other persons and organizations. The idea is to find financial support, donations of some drugs, even if its expiration date is close, or to pay for medical tests. In social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and even in Whasattp states, there are a bunch of messages asking for medicines, supplies, or fundraising.
During September, El Pitazo counted 50 fundraising campaign on Instagram and Facebook in July, Agust, and September, created by Venezuelans who claimed running out of funds, looking for help in the Gofundme platform. Of that number, 47 requested support in dollars and four in euros. The minimal amount requested in dollars es $3,000 and the highest is about $80,000.
And if the deficit public health system breaks the pocket of the Venezuelan, the private bankrupt it even more. El Pitazo found that hospitalization in a clinic varies between $500 and $7,000 a day in the country.
On September 5, Aldo created a fundraising campaign on the Gofundme platform requesting $3,000 to pay for the care of René, his father, at a clinic in Guanare, Portuguesa state. In the description of the campaign, he says that the daily hospitalization expenses are $350, not including medical studies.
The father of María Claudia, in Maturin, survived to the COVID-19, but another six relatives died in other clinics of the same city, with complications associated with the virus. In the recovery of his father, they spent $80.000, which means the equivalent of 88.000 minimum wages in Venezuela.
But, Ernesto or René’s opportunity is not available in San Fernando de Apure, Apure state, where clinics do not accept patients with COVID-19. The only ones authorized to attend to this type of case are sentinel centers, and, when the patient does not have respiratory distress, he is treating at home under epidemiological monitoring.
No medicines or supplies
During that time, Venezuelans requested the Remdesivir, a medicine used for COVID-10 patients. Its price in pharmacies is around #300 and $400. Of the experimental treatment for the virus, this is the most expensive. The requests of social networks collide with the version of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, which assures that the medicine is available for free in public hospitals.
Maduro’s regime relies on agreements with allies countries like Cuba, Russia, and China to provide medicines and supplies to attend the symptoms associated with the breathing disease. But patients and doctors denounced that provision is not enough to cover patients’ demands.
Collect money for medicines and tests in Venezuela is a race against time because the help does not arrive on time, which increase the anguish of relatives and patients, especially those who have the most severe symptoms.
For the last years, the hospital drags the deterioration of auxiliary services such as radiology studies, most of them for failures in the equipment. So, relatives must go to clinics and laboratories to have the right diagnosis. The data collected by El Pitazo show that in 26 of 46 imaging centers, there is no chest tomography service.
Rosaura Montero knew this reality very well. In August, she arrived at the University Hospital of Caracas with his brother in law who had shortness of breath. He managed to enter the emergency room after spending the day in clinics and health centers in search of a place, which he did not get due to lack of beds and oxygen.
Even though he received the medicines in the hospital, the brother-in-law of Rosaura has had to have a CT scan outside the hospital because the services were not active in the institution. $50 was the price informed in a private center. Rosaura had de money for the scan but not to mobilize his brother in law to the clinic.
“The hospital had no ambulance with oxygen available. I called more than 20 providers, and all charged $300 to take him to a clinic 15 minutes away. So, we called a friend in the Social Security Hospital, and she helps us to move him,” Rosaura said.
About her experience whit his father, Virginia reflects: “In the end, nothing is free in the hospital because you must pay for everything. We are talking about expenses that we, as Venezuelans, can not afford with our salaries. I would not have been able to pay without the help of my brothers abroad.”
The reality in hospitals told by Virginia and Rosaura shows what Human Rights Watch stated in its report published in May: “The absolute lack of preparation of the Venezuelan health system, put at risk to its citizens, and could contribute to a regional spreading of the disease.” The organization also stressed that public health care centers in the country could not deal with the pandemic because, in most of them, there are even no water services.