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Venezuelan Doctors Alarmed At Gunmen, Violence in Hospitals

Doctors in Venezuela are alarmed at a recent spate of violence and shooting deaths inside hospitals as gunmen enter freely.
File photo of medical students from the Venezuelan Central University attending an open air masterclass at a square as a protest for the lack of medical supplies, in Caracas on March 24, 2014. AFP - Getty Images

In Caracas, Venezuela, the emergency room murder of a 27-year-old patient by the very gang member who allegedly had shot him in the first place is one of a string of recent attacks that have shattered doctors' sense of security.

"It's a scandal, to kill someone inside a hospital. It's complete social deterioration," said oncology medical resident Jose Manuel Olivares, who works at Caracas' University Hospital. "It was never perfect, but they used to respect some boundaries."

In the city and the countryside, doctors say men regularly enter emergency rooms waving guns to force doctors to treat people or give them scarce medications. Doctors cite a growing culture of impunity - over 90 percent of homicides go unsolved, according to independent analysts, compared to 35 percent in the U.S. The United Nations ranks Venezuela as the world's second most dangerous country outside a war zone, after Honduras.

The Ministry of Health had no comment. Meantime, over half of Venezuela's doctors have left since the late President Hugo Chavez won power in 1999, according to the Medical Federation of Venezuela.

"The people who stay here are brave, or poor," said medical resident Pedro Blanco.


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--The Associated Press