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Venezuelan Health Spending Among Highest in the Americas

Fri 22nd Feb 2008

"Venezuela is one of the countries that has the highest investment in health in the American continent," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday during the inauguration of the new Dr. Osío de Cúa Hospital in Miranda.

As he toured the installations of the new hospital, accompanied by Health Minister, Jesús Mantilla, governor of Miranda, Diosdado Cabello as well as members of the local health committee, Chavez outlined some of the key achievements in the health sector during his government via a national television broadcast.

Importantly, the percentage of GDP invested in the health sector had increased from 2.8 % in 1997 to 6% in 2007, making Venezuela one of the leading countries in health spending across the continent, Chavez emphasized.

This increased health spending has resulted in an increased number of doctors per 100 000 inhabitants from 20 in 1997 to 59.3 in 2007, Chavez said.

In the same period, the number of primary health care clinics in Venezuela also increased from 4804 to 11 373, and the number of consultations through the National Health System increased from 3.5 million in 1997 to 54 million in 2007, he added.

Significantly, the percentage of citizen access to primary health care has increased dramatically from 21.5% in 1997 to 95% in 2007.

In addition the infant mortality rate in Venezuela dropped from 23.4% in 1997 to 13.4% in 2007 Chavez pointed out. The percentage of underweight babies born, also diminished over the same period from 10% to 8.7%.

The construction of the new hospital, with an investment of 34 million Bs.F (US$15.8 million), was one of the most important achievements of the government in the health sector, the president stressed.

The hospital which s expected to attend to 135 000 people per month and cater for 200 communities, will provide emergency services, intensive care, maternity wards, a radiology center, medical laboratories as well as a center for 170 students of General Integral Community Medicine.

The Program for General Integral Community Medicine is aimed at actively promoting healthcare in the communities, with a special emphasis on training up doctors with a high level of social commitment to work in the poorer areas.

Naiby Araujo, a medicine student who will study in the new center, said the opening of the hospital would result in social and economic improvements in the surrounding area and decongest other health centers.

The hospital is also equipped with a center for trauma counseling, observation and recuperation centers as well as urology, gynecology, family planning and general medicine clinics.

Sonia Ramírez, a local resident told VTV that the hospital would "help the community a lot, because now we will be much closer to healthcare services."

Together with the Dr. Osío de Cúa Hospital Chavez also simultaneously inaugurated, via video link up, some 288 new health clinics and 14 new Integral Diagnostic Centers, as part of the government health program Mission Barrio Adentro I, (aimed at providing free universal primary healthcare), as well as a new High Technology Center and 11 new Centers of Integral Rehabilitation, as part of Mission Barrio Adentro II, (which aims to provide free specialized care).

With the inauguration of these new health installations around the country, the total number of medical installations constructed by the Bolivarian government is 917, Chavez declared.

The government would also continue to push forward with its plan to restructure, modernize and extend Venezuela's existing hospital system, through the Barrio Adentro III, program, as well as the creation of 16 new specialized hospitals in the framework of Barrio Adentro IV, Chavez explained.
Chavez announced that these new specialized hospitals would include; a National Cancer Center in Guarenas, a pnuemonia and neurosurgery centre in Baruta, a cardiology center in Montalbán, Caracas, a toxicology and oncological center in Barainas, a maternity and children's hopsital in San Fernando (Apure), a traumatology centre in Carabobo, the Solidarity Hospital of the South, in Guri (Bolivar), and a national center for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Aragua.

Kiraz Janicke writes for Venezuela Analysis.
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