China’s hospital ship on goodwill visit to Venezuela

World Today

China's hospital ship on goodwill visit to VenezuelaPartial view of the Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark upon arrival at the port of La Guaira, Venezuela, on September 22, 2018. The Chinese hospital ship arrived in Venezuela to give free medical assistance for a week, amid the severe crisis on the Venezuelan health system. / AFP PHOTO / Federico PARRA

China’s hospital ship, the ‘Peace Ark’, has spent this week in Venezuela on a goodwill visit.  The ship has treated more than 180,000 people since it was launched in 2007.

Venezuela is in the midst of a steep economic crisis that has led to widespread shortages of basics, including medicine. CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports.

It is the largest purpose-built floating hospital with eight operating theaters and 300 hospital beds aboard the 14,000 ton Peace Ark, and it made its first visit to Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said its arrival was a sign of growing ties between China and Venezuela and their armed forces.

“At this very moment, taking advantage of the arrival of this ship,” Lopez said. “We are performing extraordinary operations in all the military hospitals of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces”.

Venezuela’s economic collapse means many regular hospitals are barely functioning, and the entrance to the port near Caracas were steady stream of people hoping they would be seen by the Chinese doctors.

“The Chinese doctors make a diagnosis, give medicine, and tell you what your problem is. They were very kind.” said a woman who was treated for a suspected neck injury.

Another had seen news of the ship’s arrival on television and had then set off on a journey of over 100 miles seeking help for his wife’s heart condition.

“I want my wife to have a catheterism but I don’t have the resources to pay for it, so I thought here it would be possible. But I can’t get in.”

Many people are grateful for the treatment they’ve received on board the Peace Ark. But this visit has also been a reminder of the decline in health care here in Venezuela.