How well is government-run health care working out in socialist Venezuela?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Here is an article about government-run health care from the radically leftist New York Times, of all places.

Excerpt:

Doctors not allied with the government say many patients began dying from easily treatable illnesses when Venezuela’s downward economic slide accelerated after Chavez’s death from cancer in March. Doctors say it’s impossible to know how many have died, and the government doesn’t keep such numbers, just as it hasn’t published health statistics since 2010.

Almost everything needed to mend and heal is in critically short supply: needles, syringes and paraffin used in biopsies to diagnose cancer; drugs to treat it; operating room equipment; X-ray film and imaging paper; blood and the reagents needed so it can be used for transfusions.

Last month, the government suspended organ donations and transplants. At least 70 percent of radiotherapy machines, precisely what Gonzalez will need once her tumor is removed, are now inoperable in a country with 19,000 cancer patients — meaning fewer than 5,000 can be treated, said Dr. Douglas Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation.

[…]The country’s 1999 constitution guarantees free universal health care to Venezuelans, who sit on the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Maduro’s government insists it’s complying. Yet of the country’s 100 fully functioning public hospitals, nine in 10 have just 7 percent of the supplies they need, Natera said.

[…]Venezuela’s 400 private hospitals and clinics are overburdened and strapped for supplies, 95 percent of which must be imported, said Dr. Carlos Rosales, president of the association that represents them.

The private system has just 8,000 of the country’s more than 50,000 hospital beds but treats 53 percent of the country’s patients, including the 10 million public employees with health insurance. Rosales said insurers, many state-owned, are four to six months behind in payments and it is nearly impossible to meet payrolls and pay suppliers.

Worse, government price caps set in July for common procedures are impossible to meet, Rosales said. For example, dialysis treatment was set at 200 bolivars ($30 at the official exchange rate and less than $4 on the black market) for a procedure that costs 5,000 bolivars to administer.

[…]At Maracay’s 433-bed Central Hospital, mattresses are missing, broken windows go unrepaired and the cafeteria has been closed for a year. Paint peels off walls and rusty pipes lie exposed. In the halls, patients on intravenous drips lie recovering on gurneys.

[…]Broken anesthesia machines and battered stainless-steel instrument tables, some held together with tape, filled one of five idled operating rooms. Foul odors and water from leaky pipes continue to seep into the rooms, doctors said.

In August, cancer patients protested at the eight-month mark since the hospital’s two radiotherapy machines broke down. The machines remain out of order.

Half the public health system’s doctors quit under Chavez, and half of those moved abroad, Natera said.

Now, support staff is leaving, too, victim of a wage crunch as wages across the economy fail to keep up with inflation.

At the Caracas blood bank, Lopez said 62 nurses have quit so far this year along with half the lab staff. It now can take donations only on weekday mornings.

And here is a comment about a Chavez supporter who has been waiting for years for care: “Gonzalez says she adored Chavez for his anti-poverty programs, always voted for him and constantly applied for government benefits, though she never received any.” Yes. That’s what causes problems like this. Low-information voters voting for a charismatic strong man who tells them what they want to hear, and seizes wealth from the most-educated, productive citizens in order to hand it out to his supporters. But eventually, you run out of other people’s money to spend, and that’s where Venezuela is now. But they keep on digging their hole.

If you’re a big-government sort of person, then you would love the Venezuelan health care system. Price controls make sure that doctors and hospitals don’t make any money by providing care. Everyone is equal and you have to wait your turn in line whether you pay taxes or not. The only problem is that it’s capitalism – not communism – which cares about the needs of consumers. In a capitalist system, consumers buy what they like, and businesses compete with each other to lower prices and raise quality. Not so in a communist system, which forces the most talented people in the country to stop producing, or just leave the country completely.

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