About every 6 weeks or so I need to take the S.O. to pick up his treatments at the IVSS high cost medicine. By law in Venezuela a whole series of medications, usually expensive, cannot be sold and must be administered by the state (from rulings BEFORE the Chavez era, mind you, least you'd think that Chavez invented each and every social programs; 1).
This notable initiative has, of course, turned into a bureaucratic nightmare which with the current crisis has tuned out to become a nightmare of genocidal proportions. Today's story.
There is only one place in Caracas where all must go (and from basically anywhere around Venezuela, as explained below).
The place is in Los Ruices, an industrial area of Caracas. The first thing you need to know is that it is in a small back street with basically no possibility to park. As a matter of fact a bus serves it from, I believe, Plaza Altamira so people go there to take the ride, or take a cab (which is complicated on the return due to the isolated nature of the place). But we have learned that most people like to go in the morning early, in particular those coming from outside Caracas so that they can return home on time. So when we arrive after 2 PM we actually can find some parking space through one of the spontaneous "cuidadores" that save space haphazardly where they know no business is open, or has traffic. or something. They are clever at figuring out those things.
We knew something was off today as the street was basically empty and we parked right in front. When we left I checked out and none of the businesses were open: no production in that block. the country is getting stand still situation!
So we park. Since they only let one person in we have managed the trick of having the S.O. walking with his cane and leaning heavily on me so they let us go through. Usually we reach a line of up to a dozen people waiting for their turn to hand a specific type of prescription that any doctor must submit (normal, of course, for this type of situation). That first check point decides whether your prescription is correctly filled and checks out for availability. If all is OK you get a number and go inside a large waiting room where two years ago it was sometimes difficult to find sitting place, at least together.
Today was different. Of the five people ahead of us, 5 were sent away because they did not have what they asked for. Fortunately for the S.O. there is one of his chemotherapy treatments that he still can find there. The others I have to get them out of the country at great expenses. The reason is that it is one that is used in several type of cancers and that it is inexpensive enough that the regime still brings in (though today we got a strange looking generic vial without box or anything, but at least a label).
We walked in and the large waiting area is empty. Our number is called right away and within ten minutes we were out. Nobody was waiting outside. No bus from Altamira outside, something we saw almost every time we came in the past.
We gave a tip to the "cuidador", I looked around to verify again the desolation of the area and we left.
Thus, why do I use "genocidal" in my title? Because I am convinced that the government does not care anymore about sick people. The more they die, the less that will need to purchase and the less sick centers they will need to manage.
First, there is only two distribution centers I know of left in the country: Caracas and Maracaibo. There were more but they may just be totally empty now even if open. So you are forcing patients or their relatives to travel for two days for a round trip to seek what their loved one needs. One of the five ahead was coming all the way from Guanare, 7 hours trip, for her young daughter. They could not tell her whether the treatment would come again, or if it was available elsewhere. The trip was wasted, the daughter left without treatment.
And that is the first crime: in spite of all computers and what not, there is no way you will know whether your medicine is available. IVSS pharmacy simply do not answer their phones anymore (well, nobody remembers when was the last time they still answered their phones). So you force those who do not have relatives in Caracas to trek all the way, and now at great expense, just to check for availability. And those with relatives, you can imagine how often they must bother, the more so if they leave in the distant Western part of Caracas.
The second crime is against those that have complex treatments. See, the S.O. is in need of high potency pain medication. His are under strict regulation. But he needs to go elsewhere for that, to another specialized center at the very opposite in Caracas, and with way more paperwork. The Los Ruices IVSS si only for cancer. People with HIV, transplants, diabetes, and other chronic stuff must go elsewhere (with the same lack of medicine anyway). Fortunately in our case, his pain medication has disappeared for already over two years in Venezuela and I have been able to get it from France at custom risk (and my out of pocket expense). So there is one less pilgrimage he has to do.
The third and worse crime, by far, is that nothing is available anymore except for a few exceptions. That place at IVSS has plenty of refrigerators that contained much stuff. Now these are not only empty, but unplugged. The regime is simply letting people die.
One of the things which I find more than appalling, horrendous, is that the regime does not allow a "free" market where those people that can get the funds can purchase. I suppose that there an equality in front of death in that rich and poor suffer equally from lack of medicine. Except that rich people will find ways. For example, before the current total lack of goods appeared, when there were more and more gaping holes, a traffic of chemotherapy medication was revealed. Apparently in hospitals and IVSS personnel stole stuff and resold it on black market. As a matter of fact one of the medications of the S.O. disappeared as the manufacturer Celgene refused to ship to Venezuela because of robbery and a deadbeat government (2).
The thing is that the corrupt military refusal to release currency control is creating a genocidal situation. Allowing for the legal purchase of dollars outside of the system even if it were for mere medicines would be the start of unraveling the whole corrupt system where a few have access to dollars and use them to speculate at will.
This is genocide, by any other word.
1- Over the years a network of pharmacies and distribution centers were created specifically for a set of chronic diseases. According to your ailment you go here of there. The final objective was that every state capital would have its own center. This never happened. Caracas is now the only place where there is "a chance" to find this or that. It is free, but when it is not available, never, then the price to pay is inhumane.
2- Celgene is a company that should be in anyone's shit list. That they refuse to ship to Venezuela anymore is understandable. That they cannot establish contact with respected Venezuelan doctors through some hospital in, say, Miami to facilitate the sale of of medicine to those who can pay is no excuse. True, people would have to go there and pay the expensive medicine, and the trip, but at least they could get it. But no, the answer to my repeated inquiries was "move out of the country" which I translate in "eat shit and die". Then some wonder about the heartlessness of big pharma. Celgene is a case in study of all that is wrong with big pharma.