Cancer has been one of the neglected diseases in Venezuela, patients do not receive medical care, adequate treatments or medications to cope with the disease. This situation has been worsened with the arrival of Covid-19 in the country.
The healthcare authorities forgot about each and everyone of the chronic diseases, including cancer patients. These must pay large sums of money for treatments that the Venezuelan State does not guarantee.
“It is unfortunate, but it is a sad reality” began Candice Mendoza, a kidney patient in Lara state who has been waiting for treatment for 7 months at the High Cost Medications Pharmacy of the IVSS (Venezuelan Social Security Administration) in Barquisimeto, and added that she has submitted five letters to both the Government of Lara State as well as the mayor of Barquisimeto and has not received any response, assuring that in order to cover the costs of her illness, she has had to sell the refrigerator, televisions, the living room furniture, the sewing machines with which she used to “bandearse” (eke out) because, as she assures, “I have to look for the money in any way, and I am selling all the things in my home so I can keep going.”
“Only the treatment with radiotherapy costs me U.S. $ 3,500,” she said, assuring that to these expenses she must add the cost of an operation and an MRI that she lacks, plus the complete medical treatment because she assures that the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS) it is not issuing it because there is none.
A complete treatment lasts a month and a half, since radiotherapies must be done daily except on weekends, and they must pay for the entire package in advance.
“The chemo is strong, I am a young person and did not suffer from anything, but the chemo brings and leaves permanent consequences,” said Mendoza, adding that the costs of chemotherapies depend on the type of cancer, but patients who have recently had than to buy the medicines in pharmacies are paying 150 U.S. dollars for a single bottle, that is, for only one session.
Chemotherapy sessions are carried out on an inter-daily basis and they must also pay for the rest of the medicines and supplies such as solutions, macro-drip, anti-allergy drugs, other drugs, steroids because for each session they must bring everything, otherwise, they lose the day.
“In clinics, apart from paying the U.S. $ 30 for the treatment be administered to you, you have to take everything, but it is the same in the public system, I waited a year and a half for them to operate on me, and they did not operate on me. I had to raise the money and have surgery in a private clinic,” she commented, assuring that this operation (a mastectomy with axillary emptying) cost her 1,500 U.S. dollars, and still, she claims that she is missing the hysterectomy.
There are 350 cancer patients in Lara who are suffering from these and other situations that put their lives at risk, but they assure that they will not give up and will continue looking for alternatives to be able to stay alive.