Johany Pérez has worked in a Caracas hospital since she was 16 years old. Today, 14 years later, earn “a starvation wage”, the minimum of 2.2 dollars a month, in the middle of a severe economic crisis that wiped out the purchasing power in Venezuela.
Refuses to resign, like many workers committed to the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Caracas, one of the most important centers for the training of doctors in the South American country.
“I love my hospital”, but “we have a hunger salary, which they call minimal and that has become more minimal because one cannot eat with that, “says this orderly.” We are working for free for the State, “he adds with disgust.
The highest salary of a professional in public administration it does not reach 10 dollars, even after an increase decreed by President Nicolás Maduro of almost 300%, diluted from the beginning by hyperinflation and the depreciation of the currency.
Salaries are paid with devalued bolivars, now displaced by dollars, which prevail in any transaction. AFP photo
It is paid with devalued bolivars, now displaced by dollars, which prevail in any transaction.
“Not enough for anything”, Matilde Lozada, a 54-year-old nurse, 25 in service, explains to AFP. “Not even to come to work.”
His salary is equivalent to six days of what he spends on public transport.
Matilde, however, does not stop going. Neither does the doctor who does not want to “abandon ship“, the cleaner who walks the corridors with a bucket and mop or the lady who hands out the same salt-free pasta every day for the dinner of hospitalized patients.
“We come by vocation,” says an scrub nurse who asks to reserve her name, which is searched with home services that charge at $ 15 or $ 20 per visit.
No one can live on minimum wage not enough to buy a kilo of meat, in this country with a labor force of 14 million people, almost half of the population.
A nurse in one of the hospital offices. AFP photo
It is so low that it is no longer a reference in the private sector, where the average salary surpasses 50 dollars a month. Only the 3.3 million workers in the public administration are governed by this poor salary, which forces them to supplement income in the informal economy.
This hospital is a architectural gem in the complex of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
But its corridors bear witness to years of neglect and lack of investment– Dirty walls, broken floors, or out-of-service elevators.
Doctors and nurses say that they bring the chlorine from home to clean facilities and do not have sutures, gloves or masks. There are two of eight operating rooms.
“We get everything through donations,” said a doctor under anonymity for fear of retaliation. “It is a destroyed hospital”.
A two-time cancer survivor died of a urinary infection because there were no antibiotics.
The government links the crisis with international sanctions against the country, although it began long before the imposition of the measures.
Graduate student dropouts rose with the covid-19 pandemic, as residents receive also minimum wage and they depend on their parents to survive, especially those who come from the province.
“Those kids don’t eat,” says the doctor, who receives 25 cents a month for his teaching work. He lives off private consultations.
Among all the staff gather money for new locks or equipment repairs. “We are like MacGyver, parapeting (mending) everything,” joked the doctor in relation to the television character, famous for his inventiveness.
The union has asked dollarize salaries in the University Clinical Hospital, but the possibility is distant.
“We have delivered communications to the State, to the United Nations, we have gone to many entities “, says Chaira Moreno, trade unionist and administrator.
Only two of the eight operating rooms are functioning. AFP photo
In the dark basement where his office is, he hung sheets written with marker demanding better conditions, but the director of the hospital, Jairo Silva, told him in a meeting that “He had already exhausted all his resources” and that “it no longer depended on him.”
Workers with more than 10 years of service they saw their salary reduced to the absurdity.
“I built my house with what I earned … and ate in the street. I haven’t known what that is for eight years. “says a worker in the kitchen.
It is rounded off by renting two rooms in your house, for $ 20 a month each one, and with his salary as janitor in a private school.
The day before, she was finally able to indulge herself: she bought a bra. “It cost me five bucksI’m still sweating, “she laughs as she pulls one of the bra straps under her uniform.