It would be far too kind to give three cheers to CNN for exposing the disastrous conditions in a children's hospital in Caracas, Venezuela caused by over 15 years of Bolivarian socialism in a July 13 broadcast report.
The network gets one hearty cheer for the detailed report's existence. It lost a chance for a second cheer when it failed to mention the country's socialist form of government which is directly responsible for these conditions. The third cheer went down the drain when one woman who was interviewed seemed to think that the healthcare system's desperate situation may just as likely be caused by the nation's utterly powerless opposition and not the Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro, where the blame totally and obviously lies.
It's also reasonable to ask where CNN and other broadcasters have been, given that Venezuela's healthcare system has been in crisis for at least the past several years. Yours truly posted on the topic at NewsBusters in November 2013, and that certainly wasn't when the crisis began — it's just when the Associated Press finally decided to report on it at length.
Here are excerpts from that AP report, including the key fact that lays the entire blame for the situation where it belongs (bolds are mine throughout this post):
... legions of the sick across the country ... (have) been neglected by a health care system doctors say is collapsing after years of deterioration.
... The government controls the dollars needed to buy medical supplies and has simply not made enough available.
... 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 ...
... of the country's 100 fully functioning public hospitals, nine in 10 have just 7 percent of the supplies they need ...
... ... 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.
... Half the public health system's doctors quit under Chavez, and half of those moved abroad, Natera said.
The last bolded sentence above, namely the government's ban on "recording images in public hospitals," may partially explain why broadcast media outlets have failed to give the crisis the exposure it deserves. But on an important topic like this, at some point they should have done what the AP did three years ago, even if it meant preparing a photo-free presentation with dry statistics.
Perhaps things have been so bad for so long that even the "government supporters" the AP referred to three years ago have decided to the give the problem needed sunlight.
Children dying in Venezuelan hospitals
Hospitals in Venezuela are rapidly decaying with a lack of resources such as medicine, endangering the lives of sick patients. CNN's Paula Newton reports.
PAULA NEWTON: Like any mother, Lucero Rodriguez is anxious to be with her son in intensive care. You can see it, how her touch so comforts Dylan.
And yet this mother says it's agony knowing there is much more he needs, that she can't give him.
LUCERO RODRIGUEZ (as translated by Newton): At this point, things are getting worse and worse. We can't get medical supplies for the baby. We can't even find the formula he needs to grow. Now we're making sacrifices.
I've been in this hospital for 15 days and I've witnessed how children are dying every day.
NEWTON: And doctors tell us that's a real risk for Dylan. He has cystic fibrosis. It damages the lungs and digestive system. Right now the medical team works hard to expunge dangerous mucus.
But here in Venezuela, Dylan can't get the antibiotics or any of the other specialized medicine he needs to help him survive.
But Dylan's not alone. Dr. Huniades Urbina, says, standing by his side. 70%-80% of the medicines children need in Venezuela haven't arrived to Caracas's pediatric hospital, or anywhere else, for months — and cancer patients are left untreated.
The sad truth is pediatric oncology has been completely shut down in this hospital. Chemo is being done here, but the doctors tell us that the medicines are still completely inadequate.
Six year-old Gustavo has leukemia. But instead of intensive therapy, his is sporadic. His mother Gabriela Mota worries when he'll have his next chemo treatment, having already seen four children die without it.
"I don't know whose fault it is," she explains. "It's the government, or it's the opposition, or XYZ. I don't know. It's sad for us to suffer for whoever did this to our children.
NEWTON (questioning Huniades Urbina-Medina, Director of the Venezuelan Pediatric Society): Do you have any doubt that children are dying because these medicines —
HUNIADES URBINA: Yes of course, totally. We have (an) intensive care unit. There's about 10 beds, we only are working with 4. That means —
URBINA: Because we don't have medical supplies. We don't have enough nurses.
(after taking Newton to the intensive care unit)
We have to work in these conditions.
NEWTON: Dr. Urbina takes us to ICU and shows us the leaks, the mold, the derelict conditions.
URBINA (after taking Newton to a burned-out wing of the hospital): And you will see, this area, four year ago, there was a fire.
NEWTON: Four years. Still, this wing hasn't been rebuilt. You can see why Dr. Urbina says, mast days, he and his colleagues feel they are practicing wartime medicine. Shuttered wards, broken equipment, festering toilets.
URBINA: We have to deal with that because we love our children. We love our hospital. We love Venezuela. And even though this, you are looking at, we have to work.
NEWTON: Parents carry on too. This is an intimate moment as Lucero showers Dylan with all the love she can, still burdened by what is not in short supply here: despair.
As noted earlier, though the report is heart-wrenching, CNN owed its viewers an explanation for Venezuela's horrid healthcare system, and only needed to mention one word: socialism. Two other names not mentioned in the report would also have been helpful, namely "Hugo Chavez" and "Nicolas Maduro."
Additionally, if the network was going to get a quote from a patient, it should have come from someone with their eyes open about what the problem really is.
That said, in Gabriela Mota's defense, perhaps she felt she had to say what she did in the way that she did to avoid government reprisals. After all, the Maduro government hasn't hesitated to arrest and jail prominent opposition politicians. Imagine what it could do to a mother whose child's life depends on the government's willingness to provide her child any medicine at all.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.