|Previously one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, modern Venezuela has been ravaged by a severe recession in the wake of its profitable oil boom. One of the most notable consequences of this economic struggle has been seen in the nation’s healthcare industry, which has been rocked by medication shortages and hospital closures. Now, critics say that Venezuelan government has introduced a technologically advanced form of medicine rationing to further restrict access to needed products. But officials have blamed the measure on the bourgeoisie, saying that the procedure is necessary to stop people from hoarding medical supplies.In late April, Venezuela’s health minister, Henry Ventura, unveiled a new national system, which requires all patients to register their fingerprints at pharmacies. After this registration, they will then be allowed to buy a limited amount of medicines. Called SIAMED, or Sistema Integral para el Acceso a los Medicamentos (Integral System for Access to Medicines), the program is designed to regulate the widespread shortages that have left many Venezuelans unable to treat a wide variety of ailments. Since the deficits began, a number of tragic stories have emerged, telling of patients who have died due to a lack of proper treatment and doctors who have been forced to perform unnecessary mastectomies because they cannot access other methods to treat breast cancer.
The government has long blamed the problem on hoarding and speculation, a tactic they continue to use to explain SIAMED. For example, Ventura recently tweeted “With #SIAMED, we want to eliminate “hoarding” so that everyone has the right to medicine. Sign up!!!” However, industry experts say that the true problem lies with a lack of supply of medicines, caused by running private companies into the ground while also restricting imports.
As a result, a number of pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations have reportedly planned to set up a registry of patients who have died unnecessarily due to a lack of medicines. However, members of the group say the project is on hold due to fears that the organizers could be arrested by the government. Instead, it seems up to the patients to protect their health as much as possible by registering for SIAMED and following a number of healthy lifestyle choices.
An analysis from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once suggested that individuals who are physically active have significantly lower annual direct medical costs than those who are inactive, meaning that encouraging activity could cut yearly medical costs in the U.S. by more than $70 billion. Could physical activity and healthy diets help Venezuelans maintain and manage their health problems until the situation is resolved? Only time will tell.