By Jesús Barreto.
A reduced number of pediatric heart specialists mean that the imposingly named “Hospital Cardiologico Infantil Latinoamericano de Caracas” (Latin America Cardiologic Hospital for Children) is only working three days a week. Patients have to wait up to one year for an operation there.
The largest cardiologic hospital for children in Venezuela, located in Caracas, is now working at 50% capacity due to an exodus in heart specialists for children.
It now works only three days a week. A diagnostic can take two months and, an operation one year. The last operation there reported in June 2019. Emergency services are not working there either.
Some 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled their country since Nicolas Maduro took over in 2013, and professionals such as doctors have been at the forefront of the migration.
The nearly-abandoned hospital is barely a decade old and was a key reelection campaign promise in 2006 for Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, the late populist Hugo Chavez.
A teary-eyed Chavez promised that the center would take care of children from all of Latin America, as the profligate leader was trying to cement his continental popularity through oil-based largesse.
“We are still on the waiting list, while we are looking elsewhere. There are no doctors, that is the answer we get. We have the hope to at least get him operated,” Graciela Torres, grandmother of 4-year-old suffering from critical congenital heart disease told El Pitazo. The boy was first diagnosed two years ago: surgery is the only hope for his complicated case.
On the outside, however, the hospital is well maintained even if medical equipment and supplies are lacking. Now it is also the only option its patients have after the cardio service at the largest children’s hospital in Venezuela, neighboring J.M. de Los Rios, was shut down indefinitely in 2019.
For some pathologies, surgery needs to take place before the patient is one-year-old. But that is precisely the period most patients have to wait now for surgery.
The hospital’s director, Isabel Iturria, could not be contacted for comment.