March 5, 2021

The maze facing the mentally ill in Venezuela

In a dark room of the most important psychiatric hospital in Venezuela, two old women rest on articulated cots barely covered with worn out mattresses and tangled sheets that are confused with the bodies of the sick.

In the backs of the cots their names do not even appear, because it could well be other patients who occupy the next night that room of the Psychiatric Hospital of Caracas, an institution founded 126 years ago that does not go through its best moment.

These elderly women are only two of the thousands of mental patients who are forced in Venezuela to go through a double maze every day: that of their own disorders and the lack of public medical assistance to help them improve.

"This has become an overcrowding of humans," says nurse Johana Hernández, after pointing out that only a small space in the hospital with the capacity to serve some 300 patients, and that she considers "a cultural heritage," remains working in terrible conditions.

"As much as you feel like doing things right, you can't do it," adds the woman, insisting on the deplorable working conditions in the center, which she intends to avoid with her complaints, so that the building does not collapse before her eyes. .

While Hernández talks with Efe, cockroaches and other insects climb the walls, they get on the beds of the patients and walk through the spaces intended for the rest of the nurses, who every day, after 18.00, see as 5 students Graduate students go home and leave the hospital without a doctor on duty.

Nor does the place, he says, have the necessary drugs to treat depression, schizophrenia and other diseases that affect the 36 patients who remain hospitalized.

"(The medications) do arrive, but not in the amount necessary to be able to administer to all," he says.

The nurse shows Efe about twenty ampoules of anxiolytics and sedatives expired in 2016, but which, he says, are applied in times of need.

Due to the absence of maintenance personnel, garbage, excrement and dead insects, they can be seen in rooms, bathrooms and courtyards of the huge hospital, whose largest extension has been without power for 20 months.

"The hospital staff is not unemployed", but we are working under minimum, comments on herself and her colleagues, who, despite all the difficulties, continue to lead their positions in the psychiatric center.

The hospital debacle, an open secret just a month ago, is now part of the debate in Venezuela, a country shaken by the biggest political and economic crisis in its modern history, and where millions of workers receive income that doesn't even cover the basket food

"If I'm honest, I don't know how much one earns here, because I don't live on it," says Hernández, who points out that his salary, which is just over 6 dollars a month, is rather symbolic, but his mission goes beyond perceiving a minimum wage that barely reaches two or three kilos of flour. She seeks to show a reality that few eyes get to see.

"If my sin was to bring this to public light, well, I will have to pay the consequences. I don't know what they will be (…), I can't turn a blind eye and be one more that stays silent. No, while I'm here I'm not going to do it, "she adds moved.

In Venezuela, hospital services are going through their own crisis, amidst the shortage of medicines and the low salaries of doctors and nurses dependent on the State, which the Chavista Nicolás Maduro has directed since 2013.

Dozens of protests are registered daily to demand the end of the crisis and the improvement in the provision of public services, by far the cheapest in the region.

In the midst of the crisis, the opposition and the unions of health workers have called for the opening of a humanitarian channel for the entry of drugs.

In recent months, shipments of drugs and medical materials managed by the Red Cross and allied countries of the Government, such as Russia and China, have arrived in Venezuela.

But Hernández asserts that, at least in the case of this hospital, no donations have been received.

"I did want Bachelet to come," the nurse told Efe, regarding the last visit made to the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, and culminated in a report that says the focus on the violation of fundamental rights in Venezuela.

. (tagsToTranslate) labyrinth (t) face (t) mentally ill (t) Venezuela (t)

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