Venezuelan nurses protest lack of Covid-19 vaccines, PPE

Caracas, May 12 (EFE).- Nurses mounted protests Wednesday in various parts of Venezuela to press the government to adopt a national Covid-19 vaccination plan and provide hospitals with more in the way of supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

Here in the capital, dozens of nurses gathered outside the Health Ministry to present Minister Carlos Alvarado with a document listing their demands, including higher salaries for medical personnel.

The national nurses union said that demonstrations took place in at least 15 of Venezuela’s states to mark International Nurses Day.

The president of the Caracas nursing association, Ana Rosario Contreras, told Efe that she and her colleagues are ready to walk off the job.

“If our request is not fulfilled,” she said, “we will find ourselves with the painful obligation to suspend our services.”

Venezuelan nurses have complained for years about shortages of medication and equipment and decaying hospital infrastructure against the backdrop of a prolonged economic crisis in the oil-rich Andean nation.

The problem has grown more acute with the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic and the unions say that the government has yet to complete the vaccination of health workers.

More than 500 health workers have died of coronavirus, including 111 nurses, Contreras said.

“Today we are working in situations of extreme poverty, in conditions of very high risk,” she said, adding that more than 75 percent of Venezuela’s nurses have left the profession because of low pay, currently in the range of $7 to $10 a month.

Health workers in the eastern state of Anzoategui took to the streets chanting “vaccines now,” while a group of nurses in Zulia, on the other side of the country, knelt in front of a Catholic Church and prayed for divine intervention to resolve the health crisis.

Venezuela has detected more than 210,116 cases of Covid-19 and the virus has claimed more than 2,300 lives in the country, according to official figures, though the health-care unions say that undercounting is an issue.

Alvarado said last week that Venezuela, with a population of nearly 29 million, has 1.48 million vaccine doses on hand. EFE ba/dr

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