By Irene Revilla.
Oil engineer Pedro Suarez, 53, a man who gave more than 13 years of service to the oil industry, died on Tuesday afternoon, August 18, inside a car outside the emergency room of the main hospital in Paraguaná, after waiting around one and a half hours for medical attention. His body was in the vehicle for four and a half hours because he was treating as a possible case of COVID-19, and no one wanted to touch him or come near him.
With the oil industry a shambles and workers getting little no zero coverage, Venezuela is also experiencing a Coronavirus-addled humanitarian crisis, with the disease seen as peaking since May.
The cause of death certified by the doctors was a heart attack from respiratory failure due to possible COVID-19. Relatives told El Pitazo what they had to go through for several days with their dying relative. Although he did a rapid test which came back negative, doctors at the Hospital Doctor Rafael Calles Sierra refused to admit him to the Intensive Care Unit, and he died in the car waiting for medical attention.
Edward and Evelexis Suarez, brothers of the dead man, said that he complained about Saturday, August 15, of a pain in his back and thought it was lumbago. He self-medicated, and that caused an allergic reaction. On Monday, they went to several health-care centers where he got treated as a case of allergy, but on Tuesday, he got worse with high fever, difficulty in breathing, pain in his lungs, and headaches.
Fearing that their brother was sick with COVID-19, they took him to the Sentinel Hospital of Punto Fijo, where doctors stabilized his breathing with oxygen and referred him to Doctor Rafael Calles Sierra Hospital to the Intensive Care Unit. Upon arrival, they were asking for a quick COVID-19 test and an x-ray, without checking him or admitting him to respiratory triage. The brothers took him to the Adolfo Martinez Guzman Diagnostic Center, located on Jacinto Lara Avenue, where they performed the rapid test that turned out to be negative.
With tests in hand, his brothers took the oil worker back to the Rafael Calles Sierra Hospital, where they reviewed the results, but refused to treat the dying man because he was a suspecting COVID-19 patient, despite the negative test.
Suarez spent his last minutes on earth inside a scorching vehicle under the tropical sun, awaiting medical attention.
After an hour and a half, Suarez suffered a respiratory arrest. It was then a doctor equipped with COVID-19 protective gear, finally, approached the car and tried to revive him. But, was in vain.
“Those were the longest ten minutes of my life. I had to manipulate the hand pump while the doctor was resuscitating his chest. No one else came out. No one else cared that his life was fading away right in front of the hospital. The moment came when the doctor asked me the time, and then, I knew my brother died,” Edward Suarez said tearfully. Pedro died at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18.
Four hours in the car
The body would remain inside the car, which had been the ambulance for the last two days of his life, for four hours, until the funeral home took over and complied with the protocols for removing a suspected COVID-19 corpse.
Close to midnight, almost six hours after Pedro passing away, they were able to take the body to the cemetery and give it a Christian burial. Neither the regional nor municipal government disinfected the vehicle. The family was not contacted by PDVSA, regarding the possibility that he also infected them.
Relatives of Pedro demands justice and support from PDVSA, which they accuse of negligence and lack of humanity.