As throngs of Venezuelans trek to Brazil in search of food and medicine, hospitals along Brazil’s sparsely populated northern border are struggling to pick up the pieces of Venezuela’s failing health-care system.
A spiraling economic crisis and hyperinflation have cleaned Venezuelan hospitals of needles, bandages and medicine. Desperate for care and often undocumented, patients are overwhelming Brazilian emergency rooms as they turn up by the thousands.
“Demand is growing faster than I can manage. Every month the number of patients grows exponentially. How can I plan for that?” said Marcilene Moura, the 45-year-old director of the general hospital in the Brazilian border state of Roraima. “What happens if this continues? I’m going to run out of supplies by the middle of the year.”
The flood of patients is also causing another crisis in Roraima, a poor and remote state that serves as the gateway into Brazil for Venezuelans: Roraima General does not have facilities to care for the bodies of patients who die there. It has resorted to sending corpses to the police station morgue, where they remain for up to three months while authorities try to identify them. The morgue, intended to house victims of violent crimes, is so overwhelmed that bodies are sometimes stacked two to a drawer, according to an employee who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the media.