Cyprus and Venezuela, Castro Care

Cyprus, a tiny island of less than one million people, is a small scale study in “big banking out of control,” “insane spending like there is no tomorrow,” coupled with “socialism runs out of other people’s money.” While researching the bailin and bailout of early summer, I found disturbing accounts of their socialized health care.

In return for a 10 billion bailout for Cyprus, the EU bureaucrats have demanded a bailin (read confiscation) of Cypriots’ savings and checking accounts. One bank offered worthless shares but another did not. Cypriots felt that they were used as “guinea pigs” to test if the scheme worked before they tried it in other places like Italy, Spain, and Greece. The confiscation of depositors’ money was dubbed in Cyprus the euphemism “the haircut.”

The European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, a.k.a. the Troika* (Russian for a three-way alliance) have required 40-60 percent confiscation of depositors’ money from the Bank of Cyprus in exchange for worthless shares and 100 percent confiscation from the Bank of Laikh; if a person had 100,000 euros in the bank, he/she was lucky to get a few cents back, said The Foreign Correspondent in a 30 minute documentary. Even the capital of small businesses had been commandeered and frozen, leaving employers unable to meet payroll and thus laid off workers. The economy became so depressed, the unemployment grew to thirty percent.

Cypriots were allowed to withdraw small amounts of money per day (200 euros) in order to prevent a run-on-banks. Easy credit and off shore investments encouraged by low taxes and relaxed regulations attracted a lot of banking to Cyprus and real estate exploded.

Michael Sarris, Finance Minister, said, “We were financing consumption beyond our means, causing a real estate bubble.” Following the Troika’s announcement of the “haircut” which the producers dubbed the “scalping,” the bubble burst and the real estate market crashed, causing a drop in property value of 50 percent.

“We do not deserve this harsh and cruel treatment,” said Sarris. Retirement savings were partly gone. The poor and the sick were hurt the most. The government did not provide the socialized medical care it had promised its citizens. And we are only talking about a small number of people, this island has less than one million inhabitants. Because the government was out of money and could not and would not pay for hospital care and other essential medical care for cancer patients, charities had to step in via month by month donations.

Charities such as The Association of Cancer Patients and Friends lost about 100,000 euros in the forced confiscation (30 percent). Narcissistic EU bureaucrats thought they knew better what was good for the people. Charitable donations were barely trickling in because so many Cypriots were still unemployed, broke, and dependent on food banks.

Why would EU and Cypriot bureaucrats not take into account the human cost of their decisions? The answer is simple, arbitrary and deep cuts made from a nicely appointed office do not carry the faces of individuals suffering the results of their cutthroat decisions.

The cancer palliative care to the end of life of 1,500 patients is run in people’s homes; a nurse visits every day to administer treatment. A relatively young patient in a lot of pain who had had a radical mastectomy was treated at home. Her dressings were changed daily by a nurse who came to her home. Her husband, an Australian citizen residing in Cyprus, had to take a job in Australia in order to ship home needed money.

“Many patients like her will die at home without any medical support,” said the palliative care nurse. “It is a human right to give pain medication.”

It is certainly inhumane to let people suffer physically, mentally, and economically the consequences of the actions of a few who took advantage of unregulated banks and gambled with other people’s money, overinvesting in real estate and then making the poor and innocent bailout the country, rewarding the bank hucksters for their greed.

Hollywood has told us repeatedly in commercials, testimonials, expertly done glossies, and documentaries how wonderful medical care is in Europe, Venezuela, Cuba, China, and how we should emulate those Fabian socialist/Marxist models.

The reality is that the health care system in Venezuela is in severe crisis after years of “government mismanagement and currency controls.” There are 19,000 cancer patients but 70 percent of radiotherapy machines are not operable. As it is the case in other socialist/communist countries, patients must buy their own medical supplies because the medical system is overwhelmed by supply shortages and inadequate or broken down medical equipment to treat those with otherwise treatable tumors.

Venezuela’s healthcare is free and universal, guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution, but what good is that guarantee if treatment and drugs are not available? It’s not that Venezuela cannot afford to foot the bill – the country sits on the largest proven oil reserves. In spite of that, according to the AP, nine out of 10 hospitals have only 7 percent of the supplies they need. When Hugo Chavez took office, 200 public hospitals “were largely replaced by a system of walk-in clinics run by Cuban doctors that won praise for delivering preventative care to the neediest but do not treat serious illnesses. There are now 100 fully functioning public hospitals.” (Frank Bajak, Doctors Say Venezuela’s Health Care in Collapse, Associated Press)

A friend sought chemo treatment in one of the 400 private Venezuelan hospitals that rely on importation of drugs, equipment, and supplies. She did not make it. Her mom had knee replacement surgery in Caracas a few years ago. For 24 hours, no nurse checked her vital signs, they just stuck their heads in the door and did not disturb her because she appeared to be sleeping. She was paralyzed from a blood clot and never recovered.

My friend always told me how much cheaper procedures were in private hospitals in Venezuela. She flew there often for private care. She did not understand that the government price ceilings (caps) on procedures did not reflect the actual economic cost for the hospital – her government-enforced price was just a fraction of the real cost. The hospital had to absorb the difference.

Although Venezuela’s private hospitals have only 8,000 beds, said Frank Bajak of AP, “they treat 53 percent of the country’s patients, including 10 million public employees with health insurance.” Bajak quoted Dr. Jose Luis Lopez, “The health care crisis is an economic crisis. It is not a medical crisis.”

And it looks like the United States is going in the same direction with the unaffordable Affordable Care Act. The non-existent health care crisis will be turned into a nightmare. Instead of fixing the insurance system and promoting tort reform, the government is destroying the best health care system in the world. Instead of expanding care to a few million uninsured or underinsured, we are destroying the existing health insurance and care of half of our population because liberals have been salivating over one-payer government insurance and rationed care for years. Progressives are now succeeding because the low information masses have chosen Hollywood’s heavily advertised Castro Care.

What is happening in Venezuela today has happened in communist Romania I experienced. There was no anesthesia for elective surgery or dental care, equipment was broken, held with duct tape, inoperable, leaky and rusty pipes were present everywhere; foul odors, an overwhelming stench, and blood stains on peeling walls and floors overwhelmed the senses. Medical personnel fled abroad just like Romanian doctors fled to the European Union.

The wasteful socialist system in Venezuela buys medical supplies via Cuba, China, and Argentina instead of directly from the supplier. “The Cuban-run program of 1,200 clinics is a politically motivated waste of billions,” said Dr. Jose Felix Oletta as quoted by the AP. The clinics do not vaccinate or perform PAP smears resulting in a comeback of diseases like malaria, Dengue fever and more women dying of cancer or in child birth.

The problem with Chavez’ utopia was that poor people believed his rhetoric, they adored him for establishing anti-poverty programs and clinics for sniffles, they constantly voted for him, but many who applied for government benefits did not get them and neither did they get treatment when they became seriously ill with cancer or other ailments.

*Troika, for any Russian generally means a Tribunal consisting of three persons, each representing the prosecutor, the defense, and the judge. They served as an instrument of terror, condemning to death dozens, sometimes hundreds of people in one day.

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