The crisis in Venezuela is worsening and with it, has come a massive migration of talented professionals who decide to leave their homeland in search of quality of life. The National Survey of Physicians and Medical Students 2017 revealed that almost 40% of the total medical professionals, who graduated in the last decade, have decided to leave Venezuela; because in the South American country the conditions are impossible for these young people to practice their profession.
The shortage of medicines and supplies, the impossibility of providing adequate medical attention, the insecurity and crime, and the deplorable economic conditions faced by the country governed by Nicolás Maduro has prompted the mass exodus of medical professionals.
The National School of Physicians surveyed doctors both in and out of Venezuela, and the most worrying statistic is that 75% of those still residing in the country intend to migrate.
Dr. Julio Castro, who presented the results of the study, described the perilous situation in the numbers: “For every 100 doctors, 60 are here in Venezuela; but of these 60, approximately, 45 want to emigrate. Another 40 said they would stay if the situation in the country changes. Of those who have already left, between 22 and 34 would return if Venezuela improves.” During the survey, the doctors described the practice of medicine in Venezuela as “frustrating.”
The study also reveals that the countries that have received the doctors include Chile, Spain, and the United States.
Douglas Leon Natera, director of the Federation of Venezuelan Doctors (FMV), warned that the number of health professionals who leave the country has increased in recent months. More than 21,980 doctors of different ages have left Venezuela, including medical veterans nearing retirement age.
Doctors with decades in the profession are migrating in order to provide stability and quality of life for their children.
“Already life in Venezuela is unsustainable, I am a traumatologist with 30 years of experience and I decided to migrate to offer security to my family, I have many patients that I will be forced to leave, but I also have to think about my family, the the future of my children, the salary of the doctors is insufficient, there are no supplies, and the insecurity every day takes more lives; that’s why I decided to leave my country,” said a Caracas doctor interviewed by the PanAm Post who preferred to remain anonymous.
But the case of recently graduated doctors is much more complicated: they do not have work experience extensive enough to be able to practice medicine in other countries, so while they finish licensing requirements, they work in any sector of the economy that pays enough to get by.
Such is the case of Dr. Andrés Álvarez who graduated from the state of Carabobo as a general practitioner; after more than five years practice in hospitals and private clinics he decided to leave Venezuela. He was able to save only USD $500 and traveled to Lima to start a new life. Currently he is working as a waiter in a restaurant, while he completes his paperwork to be able to practice as a doctor in Peru.
Álvarez is among the recently graduated physicians who seek quality of life at whatever cost. According to the president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas León Natera, at least 13,000 doctors emigrated from Venezuela before 2015.
The shortage of doctors is beginning to be evident, but it is not the only problem that Venezuelans face now. In March, the newspaper El Nacional published a report on the “express” graduation of inexperienced doctors.
In March of 2017 the Bolivarian University graduated five doctors who had not receive the necessary training in pediatrics, and placed them in the neonatal unit of the Maternidad Concepción Palacios in Caracas.
This maternity hospital had up to 30 neonatologists and a postgraduate course; now there are only six specialists left and the five new doctors who graduated without having met the necessary requirements.
The same happened at the José Ignacio Baldó hospital. Since 2009, the postgraduate program in Pediatrics has been eliminated and according to El Nacional until December 2016, “16 community doctors were in charge of giving primary care to children, without supervision, even though they were not specialists.”
But just as Venezuelans are running out of their trusted doctors, the doctors are also running out of patients, due to a massive migration of Venezuelans that is affecting all regions of the country.
A group of Venezuelan doctors decided to band together to create an initiative that not only improves their finances by charging in dollars, but also allows their patients abroad to stay in touch with them in case of any questions.
The advantage is that the cost is USD $25, when in different countries the consultations with specialists can easily exceed USD $50.
A group of doctors created the platform medicosvenezolanosonline.com, where they attend to patients virtually through videoconferences, phone calls, or via chat with doctors chosen from more than 20 specialties.
Dr. Ricardo Soto-Rosa Loges, urologist surgeon and one of the founders of the platform, told the Nuevo Herald that the idea came after discovering that a large number of his patients abroad were calling him for medical consultations.
“Venezuelans often do not adapt to the health systems they find in other latitudes where they migrate. That situation leads them to be frequently calling us to ask for guidance and dissipate their doubts,” he said.
The platform’s medical team also offers its services to “all Spanish-speaking people who can benefit from our service,” he said.
He stressed that among the objectives of launching the virtual clinic are “reducing the costs of medical care; giving access to specialists who can guide them in a large number of health situations that do not require face-to-face consultation, and helping to avoid the long wait for medical appointments in local health centers.”
And this is one of the many initiatives undertaken by Venezuelans before the massive migration of nationals, a diaspora that according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the NGO Amnesty International, soared 2,889% between 2012 and 2015 alone.