Archive for March 31st, 2008

On neonatal deaths, figures and a huge lack of responsibility

March 31, 2008

I wanted to write about the deaths at the Maternidad Concepcion Palacios, but every time I tried to I would get to irked at the Government´s reaction. For a Government that claims to care so much about people, all they seem to worry about the media and not the deaths and the facts. Just when I begin writing something,. Chavez himself came on and in a very insensitive and careless fashion accused the media, in the same way he does not want to hear about the almost 100,000 deaths during his tenure. To him, these are numbers, not the real people that suffer the consequences of the ineffectiveness and ineptitude of his Government. So, while he gives away millions of dollars to other countries and buys perfectly functioning companies so that he can be involved, kids die because of his idiotic view of the world. I thought inspiration would come at some point once the outrage subsided, but then I read Bruni´s article on the subject at cuentos intrancesdentes and figured there was little to add to what she so eloquently said. I suggested she translated and despite some initial reluctance at whether she had time or not, she sent it right away and here it is. I will not say for your enjoyment, because there is little to enjoy in this grotesque tale of incompetence and insensitivity by the Chavez Government

On
neonatal deaths, figures and a huge lack of responsibility
by Bruni

There
are many obscure points in the story of the six deaths at the Maternidad
Concepción Palacios on the night of 26 to March 27, 2008.

The
Maternidad is the only public hospital exclusively dedicated to prenatal and obstetric care in Caracas.

In
any serious country, the death of six patients on the same night in a single hospital would bring up
many questions. The public has indeed the right to know what happened and why
and to demand that public health facilities are reliable and competent.

The
role of a government, in such cases, is to immediately initiate an independent investigation,
help the families, calm public opinion and closely supervise the hospital
throughout the investigation.

In
Venezuela, instead of assuming its role, the government, in the person of
President Chavez and his Minister of Health, becomes a “guapetón de barrio”, insulting those who denounce what happened and calling them
“terrorists”.

The
minister’s statements are particularly revealing. They can be seen in this video.

The
minister began by explaining that it was not really six deaths of newborn
children, but three of the children were not born alive, as they were already
dead inside the womb of their mothers. The minister emphasized that, therefore,
the three children, or fetuses, cases were “stillborn” that do not
affect the statistics of neonatal deaths. Another child was born with a
congenital cardiology, one was not really born that night but died of
complications from an infection and another one was also a stillborn that was
produced due to a an obstetric complication….in other words ” everything
is fine Madame la Marquise “.

To
get a better understanding of the enormity of the lie that the media
“terrorists” is selling to us, the Minister brings us some figures on
the huge improvements in the statistics of neonatal deaths that Venezuela has
had in recent years.

According
to what the Minister says in the video, neonatal deaths in 1998 were 21.4 per
1000 live births, in 2006 there
were 14.4 and in 2007 the figure
has fallen to 13.

The
Minister, who a few minutes earlier had vehemently criticized those who take
advantage of human sufferings for political purposes, clearly explained that
such a decrease is due to the policy of Hugo Chavez, who has “saved 5274
children from death” in the nine years of his ruling. It is thanks to Hugo
Chavez, then, that these 5274 children have” filled with joy thousands of
homes over the years”.

The
Minister seems to overlook the fact that the normal trend should be a mortality
decline. In fact, in 1970,
Venezuela had 48 neonatal deaths per 1000 births (2007/2008
UNPD report)
. That means that, on average, the country had 0.95
deaths less per year until 1998 (if we take the Minister’s figure). On the
other hand, also using the Minister’s data, since Chavez is in power, the rate
had improved 0.93 deaths per year,
a slight decrease.

Now
let’s see how Venezuela compares with the best countries.

In
1970, the lowest rate was that of Sweden, with 11 deaths per 1000. Today, the
best country is Iceland (according
to statistics from 2005 that appears in the report of the 2007/2008 UNPD) with
a rate of 2. In 1970, Venezuela’s rate was 4.36 times higher than the country
with the best statistic. In 2005, Venezuela’s rate is 18, which is 9 times larger than the best
country.

In
other words, Venezuela has
significantly deteriorated its relative position since 1970.

But
the most surprisingly negative
figure, that was provided
by the minister himself as a positive point, is the number of neonatal
deaths in the Maternidad Concepcion Palacios itself.

Remember
that it is probably the most important maternal hospital in Venezuela.

The
Minister indicated that the Maternidad presented a rate of 40 deaths per 1000
in 2005 and has fallen to 21 per 1000 in 2007. He congratulated himself on such
a great progress.

How
on earth does the Minister welcome such a high figure? If the country’s
rate is 13 neonatal deaths
per 1000, how is it possible that the most important maternal hospital in
Venezuela presents almost twice the neonatal mortality of the country? Doesn’t the Minister realize that just such a
figure shows that there is a very
serious problem and that he should take action on it?

If
I were Minister of Health in Venezuela, I would immediately put under
guardianship the Maternidad to investigate why the neonatal mortality rate is
so high.

What
is it? Is it management problems? Medical? Social problems? What makes the
Maternidad’s neonatal death rate so high? Has anybody compared their statistics
with that of other hospitals in the same areas? And with other hospitals in
other areas of Caracas?

That,
Mr. Minister, is what a goverment
should be doing, not insulting the
media and calling them terrorists

Now,
let’s go back, again, to the opening words of the Minister that excused three
of the death cases because they were
“stillborns” as if, by the fact that they did not count in the
statistics for newborns, their cases were not as important for families and
public health policies. After all, of the six deaths, four were stillborns.

Let’s
see.

Those
women that arrive at the
Maternidad Concepcion Palacios are generally low-income and very often have had
no obstetric monitoring during their pregnancy. Precisely, one of the most
negative medical statistics of the government of Hugo Chavez has been the so-called
“maternal deaths” that occur from complications related to pregnancy.
Embarrassingly, despite Barrio Adentro and the phenomenal rise in the cost of oil, maternal deaths have
increased during the years of Hugo Chavez (see article in Ultimas Noticias here).

The
sad thing is that basic interventions like taken a blood pressure measure once
a month or a daily glass of milk,
can prevent or detect in time major complications.

I
do not know what were all the complications of the mothers who led to three of
the “stillborns” this March 26, but it is clear that in Venezuela
there is a problem with the monitoring of pregnant women.

One
thing is for sure, Mr. Minister, there is nothing to boast about, quite the
opposite.

Finally,
I conclude this post with an observation: La Maternidad Concepción Palacios is
the responsibility of the office of the Mayor of Caracas (Alcaldía Mayor)

So
since we are talking about responsibilities, I ask myself:

Where
is Mayor Juan Barreto?

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