Venezuela's U.S. dollar shortage puts health sector in intensive care
By Eyanir Chinea
CARACAS, March 21 (Reuters) - While hemophilia sufferer Sergio Tovar lay in agony for five days at a hospital in Venezuela, his friends and family scoured hospitals and pharmacies looking for life-saving drugs.
Eventually a cousin, Jenny Sequeda, helped find a substitute for the protein coagulant Tovar needs for his blood condition.
Almost everywhere they went in the southwestern state of Apure it was the same story: a lack of dollars meant importers had stopped purchasing the medicine.
"Everyone who has hemophilia, their life is at risk," said Sequeda, whose 6-year-old son also suffers from the illness.
He last received supplies of his blood medicine in January, which he has to take two times a week.
Many importers have run up big debts with providers abroad due to red tape and delays acquiring dollars through the state currency agency.
In some cases, they say, credit lines have been frozen and deliveries held up.
The shortage of medicines is part of broader economic turmoil that forces Venezuelans to routinely form hours-long lines outside shops to buy staples such as cooking oil, flour and milk. Continuación...