Risks to the life and health of pregnant women, newborn babies, and staff have increased at Maternidad Concepción Palacios, a major public hospital in Caracas, Venezuela
- Four pregnant women have died at Maternidad Concepción Palacios since urgent protective measures were granted for this major Venezuelan hospital. The ability of the hospital to provide accessible and adequate healthcare services to the country’s poorest women continues to decline rapidly as the country grapples with the current humanitarian crisis. There has been no response from the government to date.
- The five organizations that requested and received urgent protective measures for the hospital will present the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with updated information today showing the current status of the risks to women and children patients and hospital staff. These conditions reflect the same reality faced by pregnant women throughout Venezuela.
Caracas, May 9, 2019. Over a month after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted urgent protective measures for female patients and medical personnel at Maternidad Concepción Palacios, the risks to patients and staff have increased, according to the organizations* that requested the measures.
Since the issuance of urgent protective measures on March 19, four female patients at Maternidad Concepción Palacios have died from hemorrhaging when vital blood products (whole blood, platelets, plasma) were not available due to the lack of reliable blood bank services at the hospital. Given that organizations documented a total of 15 deaths of female patients at the hospital within the year 2018, this new information shows that the risk to women has increased, with no response from the State, despite the issuance of the protective measures.
Meanwhile, the hospital’s ability to provide sufficient care has suffered even more in recent weeks due to the constant blackouts in Venezuela, which affect not only the electricity supply, but the water supply as well.
Although Maternidad Concepción Palacios has a backup power source in case of blackouts, it is only able to supply electricity to part of the hospital. The electricity it does produce is insufficient for pumping water to the upper parts of the hospital, where almost all of the departments are located. This prevents medical staff from being able to wash their hands properly before providing care. In addition, the hospital does not have a consistent supply of cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing products, further aggravating risks to women and children patients and medical personnel.
On top of all these issues, the waste water disposal system is faulty, leading to additional health risks and frequent interruptions in healthcare services.
These are just a few examples of the overall situation at the hospital, whose operational capacity has declined by over 50%. According to the organizations that requested and received the urgent protective measures, Maternidad Concepción Palacios has only attended to 425 births in the first four months of 2019 compared to 850 in the same period of time in 2018.
The organizations have provided this information to the IACHR for consideration during its 172nd Period of Sessions. The body is currently reviewing Venezuela’s compliance with several urgent protective measures it has recently issued.
In the hearing before the IACHR, the organizations noted that while women who go to the hospital face a particular set of risks, many other women do not receive care in the first place due to lack of capacity, supplies, and resources.
Now, well over a month after the issuance of the protective measures, the State of Venezuela has failed to provide any response or make any effort to coordinate with the organizations or hospital staff to implement the measures urgently needed to prevent more deaths of women and babies, according to the organizations. The political crisis in the country is not an excuse for failing to comply with obligations relating to women’s health, particularly after the issuance of these protective measures.
Measures issued by the IACHR
On March 19, 2019, the IACHR granted urgent protective measures requested by five organizations in response to risks to women, newborn babies, and medical staff at Maternidad Concepción Palacios.
It ordered Venezuela to take the following measures:
- Provide the hospital with medical supplies and medications and ensure consistent availability of the healthcare professionals required for adequate provision of services for women.
- Ensure provision of abortion follow-up care, access to contraceptives, prenatal checkups, pre and post-natal care, and appropriate care for newborns.
- Ensure appropriate hygiene conditions in the hospital, including sufficient resources (water, personal hygiene products, etc.).
These urgent measures are vital for ensuring that the violations of the rights of women and girls do not remain invisible, as is too often the case in humanitarian crises.
*The Venezuelan organizations Cepaz, Mujeres en Línea, Avesa, and Freya, along with international organization Women’s Link Worldwide, requested protective measures for Maternidad Concepción Palacios from the IACHR.
For more information:
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Sergio Camacho Ianinni
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