The Associated Press has published a great but disturbing story. Given the frequent and deserved grief yours truly administers when the wire service lets its readers, listeners, viewers, and subscribing news organizations down, it seems only fair to acknowledge fine work when it does occur. The real question is, in the politically charged U.S. health care environment, whether the AP's subscribers and other media outlets aware of Frank Bajak's Wednesday morning report will acknowledge its existence, and adequately relay the horrors contained therein.
The story is about what's left of Venezuela's "free" healthcare system. It's in shambles. The headline reads like it might be "only" doctors who say so, but Bajak's content says otherwise. Readers here need to go to the full report, because the excerpts which follow of necessity convey only a small portion of how awful things are, including indications that the country is moving ever closer to becoming another Cuba:
DOCTORS SAY VENEZUELA'S HEALTH CARE IN COLLAPSE
... (Evelina) Gonzalez is on a list of 31 breast cancer patients waiting to have tumors removed at one of Venezuela's biggest medical facilities, Maracay's Central Hospital. But like legions of the sick across the country, she's been neglected by a health care system doctors say is collapsing after years of deterioration.
Doctors at the hospital sent home 300 cancer patients last month when supply shortages and overtaxed equipment made it impossible for them to perform non-emergency surgeries.
... "I feel like I've been abandoned," Gonzalez, 37, tells a bright-eyed hospital psychologist trying to boost her morale. Her right eye is swollen by glaucoma diagnosed two years ago but left untreated when she had trouble getting an appointment.
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 ...
Last month, the government suspended organ donations and transplants ...
... of the country's 100 fully functioning public hospitals, nine in 10 have just 7 percent of the supplies they need ...
... 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.
... Medical students quietly showed AP journalists around to avoid alerting government supporters, who bar reporters from recording images in public hospitals. 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.
I wonder if Sean Penn might be available to comment?
More importantly, what has happened in Venezuela should at the very least be instructive to the single-payer crowd in the U.S., which is already working on demanding a move in that direction because the struggling (i.e., almost failing) "government marketplace" (cough, cough) approach was, in their fevered minds, a "sellout" to the eeeeevil insurance industry. Venezuelans are dying because of single-payer in a resource-rich country whose government is trying to keep its citizens and the rest of the world from seeing the truth about its supposed "Bolivarian workers' paradise."
That's exactly why the smart money should be on the rest of the U.S. press doing everything it can to ignore what Bajak has reported.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.