More Venezuelan Women Undergo Mastectomies Because of Economic Crisis


Because Venezuela is in the midst of an economic crisis, procedures that are often a last resort in the battle against breast cancer, like mastectomies, are being favored over more modern standards of care, like radiation and less-invasive surgery, reports AP Online.

“You don’t feel comfortable with it, because you’re making a decision that goes against your professional judgment,” [oncologist Dr. Gabriel Romero] said recently after seeing patients in the grubby basement clinic at the Dr. Luis Razetti Oncology Center, at the foot of a Caracas slum. The hospital’s only linear accelerator machine, the more modern of the two kinds of radiotherapy devices used in Venezuela, has been broken since November.
“We’re practicing medicine from the 1940s here, and we know that’s not right,” Romero said.

The problem, though, is not the doctors: it’s the government not providing hospitals with the cash—keeping in mind that Venezuela offers universal healthcare to its citizens—to fix radiation machines. Which is just fucking dumb.

Government backers blame medical supply companies for the shortages, and accuse them of hoarding scarce materials. Detractors say the situation is part of the general collapse of the economy brought about by an administration that will not allocate dollars where they’re needed.

So, yeah: they’re strapped, but the money they do have isn’t going to the right places because of corruption.

The company under contract to maintain most of Venezuela’s linear accelerators- machines popularized in the 1980s that generate beams of high-energy radiation- hasn’t been able to import anything since October, because the government hasn’t approved the firm’s access to foreign currency, said Antonio Orlando, president of the medical equipment firm Meditron.
“We’re completely paralyzed,” Orlando said, adding that his company gets calls daily from worried patients. “It does make me feel bad; we’re talking about cancer patients here.”

Image via Shutterstock

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