Venezuela is the country with the biggest proven oil reserves in the world, this is a fact that our Government loves to remind us at least once per day in one way or another, it is one of the fundamental pillars of their entire anti-US narrative. The fact that we’re such a rich country must certainly mean that we have it all at our disposal, right? Our citizens surely have access to everything and anything they would possibly need, and then some more, right? Wrong.
We are going through a severe and tragic health crisis, unprecedented in the history of our Nation, another symptom of the calamitous socialism that has befallen upon us. The shortage of medicine to treat people’s illness and sickness is a fact the authorities can no longer hide to the outside world in its entirely, people’s lives are at risk. Many men, women, and children have died as a consequence, lives that could’ve been saved if things worked the way they should if the resources hadn’t simply vanished into thin air.
For many Venezuelans, this has become a matter of life and death.
The Shortage of Medicine & Hyperinflation
In this country that once was the richest Nation in South America–now the poorest, finding the meds you need has become a torturous Via Crucis. Even finding simple over-the-counter medicine like Omeprazole or Antacids is now an epic journey that often rivals even the most celebrated fantasy or fiction stories.
The Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela (Federación Farmacéutica de Venezuela) reported that by the end of August 2017, there is a shortage of 85% of medicine in the country, they also stated that Hospitals only count with 10% of the regular dosages they would need to operate under normal conditions. This crisis slowly began a few years ago, but the situation started to rapidly become worse from 2015 onwards.
Citizens must now embark on a pilgrimage across their city’s pharmacies and drug stores in order to find even the most simplest of things, and they must pray and hope that by some dumb struck of luck or by the random hand of fate they are able to find at least one out of the several items they’re looking for.
As if the shortage wasn’t enough of a problem, the rampant hyperinflation we’re suffering through is also another insurmountable obstacle when it comes to obtaining medicine, prices have skyrocketed in 2017.
This is a box of Esomeprazole that I bought on September 7. I was charged Bs.53,566.66 for it. For the sake of comparison, the minimum wage at the time of that purchase was at Bs.97,531.00 per month.
Let’s see another example, an antibiotic:
Bs. 38,000.00 for 16 pills of Amoxicillin.
While the cost of these meds might not seem that high to you if you weight them against the USD Black Market rate, you have to remember that our wages and salaries are absurdly low here. As of right now, the base Pension for the Elderly (the demographic group that is more keen to spend more on medicine) is Bs.136,544.18. They must dedicate all of their Pension to pay some of the meds they require, leaving no room for food or any other type of expense.
So not only you must now embark on a journey in order to find what you need, many of us can’t afford them to begin with.
From a personal standoff, I need to take Levothyroxine, possibly for the rest of my life due to my hypothyroidism (the only thing I’ve received from my father besides an Italian last name now that I think about it—fuck yeah). I haven’t been able to find them for a while, and now I’m at a point where I’m taking expired Euthyrox pills just because it’s better than nothing.
Sure it’s not a life-threatening condition and meds can (for the most part) be safely taken up to three months after their expiration date, but still, this is an over-the-counter medicine I could easily find and purchase at any drugstore years ago, nowadays? Good luck with that. After the Government regulated its price into absurdity no one wants to sell it at a loss, so its production and distribution is severely limited now, the cardboard box and aluminum blister that’s part of its packaging costs more than the actual pills.
Social Media and Medicine Trading
With Pharmacies and Drug Stores lacking over 80% of their usual supplies, citizens have started to organize across different social media in order to desperately seek out the meds they need for themselves or their families, numerous public service hashtags exist for this reason. from Twitter to Facebook, even Instagram, they are an invaluable asset when it comes to obtaining rare unicorn pills and meds. The practice of trading one hard to obtain med for another that you need is now common practice in this country.
(Me checking a couple cross-state pharmacy accounts in the hopes that one of them had Propinox back in August, none of them had any left)
While many first-world special need individuals use social media to whine about how unfair life is it to them because their Ice-Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiato took too long to be served, down here people use it as a desperate instrument to save the lives of their loved ones.
Cancer, HIV, and other special treatments
Now this is where the darkest part of this crisis, where the true despair of this situation can be seen; the lives of many men, women, and children are endangered due to a near-zero supply of Chemotherapy, HIV and other special treatments for high-risk conditions. Our public health system has always been far from perfect, but it functioned well for the most part. In recent years the system is at a near collapse.
This is a subject that hits very close home, my mother has been undergoing chemotherapy for two years now, and securing all of the ever-changing meds she needs for her treatment has become more impossible with each passing day.
Our Social Security system does count with a network of high-cost pharmacies (Farmacias de Alto Costo) run by the Government, they provide patients with these sorts of medicine free of charge, ranging from HIV, Leukemia, Renal, and many other types of illness; sounds good right? It would if it worked as advertised.
Men and women from all ages, shapes, and sizes go there, with all the myriad of documentation that they’ve been asked in hand (because bureaucracy is our national pastime), to await in a long line (our other national pastime) to see if they, by some miracle, have the meds they desperately need to survive. In many cases they do not have the meds in stock, or they will receive less than what they need.
They no longer allow non-patients inside the premises of the high-cost pharmacies, perhaps to avoid cases of people recording the lines and mistreatment of patients that often occur there, but back when I was allowed to wait inside I saw too many people desperate for their medicine; for many of them it was a matter of life and death.
Just as there is a network of public health pharmacies that (should) have these meds, a private counterpart exists, while it is relatively better stocked (keyword, relative) it also suffers from that 85% shortage.
On a personal anecdote, about two months ago I visited one of these pharmacies with my mother, they had a special line so that people could quickly ask if they had what they’re looking for (so they could avoid waiting in line for approximately one hour just to receive a “no, we don’t have it”).
As we were waiting to be attended, this young woman (had to be at least five years younger than me) opened her backpack and took a handful of recipes from a folder. One by one she asked the man if they had each of those meds in stock, but much to her dismay, they didn’t had a single one of them in stock. She nearly broke down in tears, desperation was taking over her.
That was the “sixth pharmacy” she had visited on that day, and she needed those meds for her epilepsy. As much of an asshole that I can be at times, I couldn’t do nothing but bear witness of her desperation. Having no choice, she left—possibly to a seventh establishment, I hope she’s doing well.
Neither the public nor private health sector are now able to provide proper health care that our citizens deserve, violating the most fundamental right in our constitution, the right to live. Life no longer has any value in this Nation.
Shortage of Hospital Supplies
The shortage of medical supplies is just as bad as the shortage in meds and treatments. It has become common practice for public hospitals and private clinics to ask patients to bring their own gauze pads, bandages, and other sorts of medical supplies required to carry out their surgeries because they do not count with sufficient supplies; this of course, has given birth to an underground contraband and smuggling system for said supplies—hidden in plain sight on Hospitals and other Health Centers.
The “Trump” did it scapegoat Narrative
A few days ago, the president of the Constituent Assembly, said there was no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Denying the shortage of meds was the to-go narrative over the past two years.
After the Trump administration issued sanctions towards Venezuela, the narrative shifted to “there is a shortage of food and meds because of Trump’s sanctions” despite the fact that the meds crisis began years ago, way before Trump even announced his candidacy.
The Government keeps swimming in their own pride and refusing to acknowledge the full extent of this catastrophe, too many have died already because they could not find proper treatment, deaths that could’ve easily been avoided with the right treatment and the right medicine. Diseases that had been eradicated in the past like Diphtheria have resurfaced; don’t forget that they are the ones that have absolute control of what goes in and out of this country, if only they’d swallow that pride and admit their mistakes and seek out help, then maybe we could alleviate the havoc they themselves caused.
Instead, they’ve done what they do best: come up with excuses and half assed ideas, over and over again. Such as the time when they announced a brand new telephone number for people to call and request medicine, spending God knows how much cash on a convoluted system that led to nowhere and collapsed under the weight of its own bloated failure.
So Venezuelan citizens are presented with a two-way road, the thing is that both paths lead to nowhere: Seek the precarious public health system that has no supplies and is in complete disarray, or seek out the private sector that keeps increasingly becoming unaffordable due to the economic collapse of our country.
As with virtually any other aspect of life, obtaining medicine is a struggle when you live in Socialist Venezuela™
But hey, every single Internet Communist will gladly remind me and you that this country isn’t real Socialism, all while typing on their Mac laptops in the comfort of their favorite Starbucks while sipping from a cup of Iced Espresso Vanilla Latte; linking YouTube videos of British citizens that have never set foot in this country explaining how this is not “Reel Souchializm) as empirical proof of their statements, which is why I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to remind you all of the imperious necessity of the #SwapACommie program.
Thanks for reading, this is still a learning process to me, so all your feedback and criticism is highly appreciated.