Friday, 14 January 2011

Mission Barrio Adentro

Mission Barrio Adentro: A socialist concept of Medicine
by Pearl Nguyen,
Translation: by Eva Golinger.
Source: Correo del Orinoco International, no. 22, 30 July 2010

In Venezuela, the concept of social medicine in which health is viewed as an essential part of humanism and as a right of every citizen and not a business, continues to grow. The work of Mission Barrio Adentro, a Cuba-Venezuela initiative, has been fundamental to achieve this end.

The relationship between Cuba and Venezuela has developed steadily since October 30, 2000, when Presidents Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro of Cuba signed a Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement Cuba-Venezuela. In April 2003, the first Cuban doctors of Mission Barrio Adentro arrived to Caracas to jumpstart the social program, which was soon extended to the rest of the country. The initial goal was to bring healthcare into poorer communities, where most people had never had any medical care and had little or no access to preventive healthcare campaigns.
The mission currently is run by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors as part of an overall healthcare strategy and state policy of the Chavez administration, explained Vice-Minister of Health Networks, Iver Gil.

Today, more than 15,000 doctors are working in Mission Barrio Adentro, with a large percentage of Venezuelan doctors now working with human sensitivity and social commitment. There are approximately 30,000 Cuban collaborators, including medical and technical staff in hospitals throughout the country, with the goal of strengthening the national public health system.

The objective this year is to complete the construction of more than 500 comprehensive diagnostic centers (CDI), where Venezuelan and Cuban doctors provide care and counseling in the areas of healing, promotion and prevention. Students are also trained in social medicine at these centers, based on the notion that healthcare is a right, not a commodity, and is essential to aid in the improvement of quality of life in Venezuelan communities.

“It’s a joint program with doctors and communities working together to improve the quality of life and health of residents. We are now developing integral health community services, so that communities have an area or network with medical health services at the preventive, diagnostic and treatment levels to promote health and prevent disease”, explained Vice Minister Gil.

Gil reported that in the next two months 17 more CDIs should be inaugurated and 64 new hospitals built, along with the renovation of other public hospitals in specific areas such as operating rooms, laboratories, delivery rooms, emergency, among others. Gil stressed that the most important aspect of Mission Barrio Adentro is the promotion of social medicine, curative and preventive healthcare and proper rehabilitation.

“In many areas that never had access to medical consultations before, there are now popular, free clinics. During the program, we have increased the number of neighborhood clinics from 4,000 to 11,000 nationwide”, said Gil.

Vice-Minister Iver Gil also explained that previously in Venezuela, medical education was elitist, with limited spaces at universities. “A medical degree was seen only as a profession to make money or earn large sums of money, and the concept was of a doctor waiting in his offi ce for the patient to come with problems”.

With the new concept of socialist healthcare in the country, Gil noted the whole medical community is being reshaped. There are currently more than 28,000 students of Comprehensive Community Medicine studies in six experimental national universities. “In five years, we have incorporated more than 8,000 students into the public hospital system who will graduate in December next year, trained in social, socialist, integral medicine, which takes into account the community environment and not just the body or the sick person alone, but also how we live and how we can improve the quality of our lives. This is a process that includes home visits, and students are forming these clinics and networks in their own communities”.

The Ministry of Health has several strategies to ensure the provision of medicines and medical equipment for communities, hospitals and clinics. Alliances with ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas) countries and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), including Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Paraguay, have enabled agreements to buy medicines at low prices.

Also, Gil noted that through these partnerships, major surgical equipment for hospitals and other medical supplies have been acquired. “Now we are engaging in agreements to enable Venezuelan industries to produce pharmaceutical drugs in our own country. This involves the transfer of technology and know-how from other nations, which is an essential part of these accords”, he said.