Venezuela: The Costs of Getting Sick…or Dying


Caracas, Venezuela.

HAVANA TIMES — No one likes to get sick, let alone die. True, things are relative, and there are probably quite a number of people who long to be sick or die. For the most part, however, people don’t get too many kicks out of being in hospitals or funeral parlors.

If, by any chance, one happens to live in Venezuela, things become slightly more complicated. What I mean is that here one tries, through any means possible, never to get sick, never to have accidents, never to go through anything that could land one in a hospital or clinic.

As for me, I don’t even want to think about it (I am not a legal resident yet and cannot even dream of securing medical insurance).

Some days ago, a friend of mine had to undergo an operation for appendicitis. These operations are always emergency procedures. She was “insured”, but had to wait in the Emergency Ward at the clinic for over eight hours for her insurance company to approve two medical examinations that are essential to the operation (but which, according to the fine print, were not included in her policy).

Since everything turned out to be a “mistake” of the insurance company, my friend was finally able to get her operation – the day after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Luckily, she didn’t develop any complications during the more than 12 hours she had to wait.

Some weeks ago, a fire marshal wasn’t as lucky as my friend. After suffering an accident, he had to wait at a clinic for over an hour to receive medical attention. The insurance company never provided the hospital with the blessed case code so that he could get this attention and no doctor dared violate the regulations to save his life. When he finally was taken to the hospital, he was dead.

The chances of survival after one has had the misfortune of getting sick or being in an accident are reduced even more when you have to travel around the city in an ambulance or something along those lines. Traffic constantly conspires to delay your arrival at any of the city’s medical institutions.

And since this whole business of going to heaven is nothing more than a metaphor, at least for these bodies of ours, that don’t evaporate into nothingness easily, the pain over someone’s death is accentuated when relatives must bury their loved ones.


I won’t scare you with the sums of money one has to pay (having insurance or not) when one must institutionalize a relative at a clinic or hospital.

Then comes the worst part, the part when one has to put together 10 thousand Bolivares (maybe more, because prices are constantly on the rise) to secure the cheapest funeral services out there (Venezuelan minimum wage is at 2,500 Bolivares a month, approximately). A flower-wreath doesn’t go for less than 600 Bolivares.

If I’m already feeling overwhelmed from writing about this, and you from reading, just imagine what those who have to take on these “formalities” must feel.

Personally, I prefer cremations, which go for about 4 thousand (depending on the place). This way, one doesn’t have to look for a grave (the cheapest of which cost over 3 thousand Bolivares). I won’t mention where the moderate and high prices are at.

What about being born? Perhaps that’s a topic best left for another post. I’ll limit myself to saying the caesarian business is so profitable these days that few are the women who can (and want) to have a baby the old-fashioned way these days.

Venezuela is a beautiful country, full of kind and marvelous people, as is the case nearly everywhere in our continent – provided you don’t get sick, or die.


Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

3 thoughts on “Venezuela: The Costs of Getting Sick…or Dying

  • yes i know its a comrade hugo chavez country here medical system is best in the world .

  • First thing to notice is, that a citizen of one ALBA country cannot get free medical care in another. Only the ‘nasty ‘European Union has managed something like that. So much for solidarity within ALBA that goes beyond presidents. .As for Barry’s idea of Cuban doctors being loved, that is perhaps because nobody else would risk their life by being a sitting duck in a part of Caracas only Cuban doctors would work in. As for the different Venezuelas people tend to believe whom and what they care to believe. so, are you saying the fire marshall Caridad mentioned never died just because it does jot fit your ideas of Venezuela? But even the best mission has its technical limits when it comes to specialist surgery etc. etc.
    Barry, Cuban doctors in Venezuela work for less than minimum wage Would you do that in your own country?

  • This is a truly perplexing story.

    I am an Australian and I’ve only spent 10 days in Venezuela, but I saw the
    medical system there, known as Barrio Aldentro, up close and it was completely

    I met innumerable people who told me about the parasitic private medical system
    that existed before the election of Chavez and what that meant for their
    families. They experienced ruthless
    financial exploitation by doctors and a system that didn’t care if they lived
    or died.

    I saw countless Venezuelans, of all ages in poor areas wearing new eye glasses
    and braces on their teeth provided by Barrio Aldentro. I also visited one of the bigger Barrio Aldentro specialist clinics, again where all treatment was free and the head doctor was Cuban.

    I saw how deeply loved the Cuban medical staff were by the local communities in
    which they lived.

    An Australian friend travelling with me was given free treatment. Another Australian friend who visited Venezuela earlier got seriously sick with gastroenteritis. He went to the private hospital system and got
    treatment, drawing on his travellers insurance.

    After a couple of days of useless treatment that cost over $1,000 he left that
    hospital and went to the Barrio Aldentro and was treated for free by the Cuban
    doctors, who cured him rapidly.

    Perhaps Yordanka Caridad lives in a Venezuela in a parallel universe?

Comments are closed.