Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chavez Threatens to Close Private Clinics If They Don't Lower Their Prices

Translation from the Spanish by Michael K. Smith. Original available from Everything Venezuela proposes or does has to appear in quotation marks, as though they were speaking a foreign language. From capitalism's point of view, they are.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reiterated today his "warning" to private clinics in the country that he will expropriate or close them if they don't reduce the costs of medical services they offer patients.

In an official ceremony transmitted on the Venezuelan national radio and television channel Chavez said that he will wait "a little longer" to see if the clinics listen to reason and lower the costs of services they extend to the public.

The head of state threatened this past April to "close" or "expropriate" private clinics that refused to respect "strict regulation" of costs of medical services that his government is setting up.

Upon inaugurating a dialysis unit today on the island of Margarita, Chavez deplored that a private clinic charges $418.60 for a single treatment, when a chronic kidney patient requires 12 treatments a month, which raises the cost to $5023.25.

"It's criminal what private clinics are doing everywhere, there are almost none that escape this. What a lack of feeling; the perverseness of privatization, of the commercialization of medicine. I am not going to continue tolerating this!" affirmed Chavez.

He rejected the argument made by clinic directors that it would be unsustainable from an economic point of view to reduce costs to the levels desired by the Executive, between 25% and 30% below the present ones, according to parliamentary sources.

This Wednesday the association of private clinics presented a proposal of medical service prices to the pro-government National Assembly, which was judged to be "unsatisfactory" by the deputies, due to numbers that "are much higher" than those anticipated by the Executive.

On Wednesday Deputy Tirso Silva disclosed that surely the Executive "is not going to accept" the private proposal, on account of which he anticipated that in a week the government might be dictating the regulation to the health sector.

Irwin Pena, spokesman for the association of private clinics, said this Friday that it "surprised" him that government authorities would consider "inflated" the price proposals presented by the private clinics, which, he added, obey a structure of costs and not whim.

This past April the Health Ministry announced the beginning of "a process of regulation" of medical services, whose costs in the country "indisputably respond to speculation," according to an "evaluation" carried out by the Offices of Commerce, Finance, Health, and Labor.

Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," and "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

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