Project X-Ray (2014) aims to show Venezuelan public hospitals in a state of continued crisis. The photographs presented here reveal the disintegration of public healthcare facilities and the suffering of vulnerable patients. This situation is cited as a microcosm of the problems facing the country at large. The pervading poverty, violence, corruption and negligence exist simultaneously within the hospital walls.
In 2014 a major social, political and economic crisis hit the country in the months prior to the death of President Hugo Chavez, a situation which has further deteriorated under his successor Nicolás Maduro. Anti-Maduro demonstrations, which first broke out in February 2014, have been met with an intense government crackdown on political opposition. Oil prices have dropped dramatically since June 2014, aggravating recession as well as increasing inflation – and unrest – in the country.
Venezuela’s infrastructure and its social services have since spiralled into chaos and the effect of the crisis on public hospitals has worsened. Workers, patients and families are faced with an endless list of challenges including lack of supplies, staff, beds, low wages, poor working conditions and malfunctioning equipment. According to the Federación Médica Venezolana, 97% of public hospitals struggle with a mere 24% of medical supplies. Patients often need to attend more than one hospital before access to treatment is granted. This lack of treatment has led to the death of many patients – though the statistics are of course not produced by the government. Added to this, doctors and staff now regularly face threatening behaviour, assaults and even theft.
Media regulations imposed by the government make it difficult for journalists to investigate these issues or discuss them in public.
I was able to gain access to nine hospitals across Venezuela last summer, sometimes with permission, sometimes anonymously.
I received a lot of support from members of staff and patients inside these hospitals because they felt desperate to show the reality of their day-to-day experience. I first produced this work in the form of a newspaper, as a means of disseminating this hidden story as widely as possible.
This project hopes to expose the crisis and to provide a voice for those who are silenced, or worse, under the current regime. with international conventions and treaties signed
and ratified by the Republic.