- Title: Having fled Venezuela, migrant doctors in Chile now giving back in pandemic
- Date: 3rd July 2020
- Summary: SANTIAGO, CHILE (RECENT - JUNE 14, 2020) (REUTERS) MEDICS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AT HOSPITAL DESK VARIOUS OF DOCTOR ATTENDING TO CORONAVIRUS PATIENT GENERAL VIEW OF LOCAL STREET VENEZUELAN DOCTORS OUT ON STREET DURING INTERVIEW WITH REUTERS (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VENEZUELAN DOCTOR, NORELIS PORTAL, SAYING: "We Venezuelans understand that we had to move out (of Venezuela). And getting out of the country was probably the best solution to face everything that was coming even though we left behind things in Venezuela: parents, siblings, family, everything." SANTIAGO, CHILE (JULY 2, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF OFFICE SPACE WITH MEDICAL TEAM, MANY OF THEM MIGRANTS, WORK TO ATTEND TO LOCAL COVID-19 PATIENTS MEDICAL BAG USED BY MEDICS OUT ON THE ROAD (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) LOCAL DOCTOR, VERONICA FAJARDO, SAYING: "We are a support team for locals. We see patients who are COVID-19 positive and those with suspected cases." VEHICLE WITH MEDICS ON BOARD ON LOCAL STREET GENERAL VIEW OF LOCAL DOCTOR KNOCKING ON DOOR OF HOME MEDICS PUTTING ON PROTECTIVE GEAR SANTIAGO, CHILE (RECENT - JUNE 14, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VENEZUELAN DOCTOR, NORELIS PORTAL, SAYING: "You're seeing the patient in their environment, their home, their space, their family, many of them. For example, I have had a patient whose husband, mother, father and sister were hospitalised. There is a level of anguish, of fear. As I say, it's the same fear that people have in their faces when you say, 'you are entering an infectious process'. There is the terror in people when you take them from their home and perhaps they're thinking that they're not going to return. I think it's this part that is the most moving." SANTIAGO, CHILE (JULY 2, 2020) (REUTERS) MEDIC IN PROTECTIVE GEAR ENTERING HOME ELDERLY LOCAL LOOKING OUT OF WINDOW OF HOME SANTIAGO, CHILE (RECENT - JUNE 14, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VENEZUELAN MEDIC SPECIALISING IN TRAUMA, JESUS VALERA, SAYING: "I was told a short while ago that Chile has the highest number of migrants (in the region) and there are many Venezuelan medics. So, we have to face this situation, to be out on the frontlines, to do the best we can so each patient is satisfied with the treatment we give them and regardless of the country we come from." SANTIAGO, CHILE (JULY 2, 2020) (REUTERS) MEDICS IN VEHICLE IN RESIDENTIAL AREA MEDICS IN PROTECTIVE GEAR BY BOOT OF CAR MEDIC ENTERING HOME SANTIAGO, CHILE (RECENT - JUNE 14, 2020) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) VENEZUELAN DOCTOR, NORELIS PORTAL, SAYING: "Our generation in the last 20 years in Venezuela, in some way or another, we have prepared to face a crisis and to go on ahead." SANTIAGO, CHILE (RECENT - JUNE 18, 2020) (REUTERS) LOCAL STREET
- Embargoed: 17th July 2020 20:04
- Keywords: COVID-19 Chile coronavirus doctors medics migrants pandemic
- Location: SANTIAGO, CHILE
- City: SANTIAGO, CHILE
- Country: Chile
- Reuters ID: LVA001CL9BD53
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Venezuelan migrants in Chile are stepping up their work on the frontlines of the nation's pandemic, giving back to their host country, which is grappling with stopping infections.
Chile is in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, with among the worst rates of contagion per capita in the world and deaths now topping 5,000.
With medical workers exhausted and increasingly falling victim to the virus and relevant specialists in short supply, Chile has built a rearguard of retired doctors, student nurses and experts in other fields like psychiatry, ophthalmology and dermatology to plug the gaps.
The conservative South American country has also found gold among its large migrant population, recruiting onto the medical frontlines hundreds of professionals from Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba who were previously working as Uber drivers, petrol pump attendants and waiters because of strict rules for recognizing foreign qualifications.
Six months ago, Venezuelan emergency doctor Norelis Portal was laid off from Chile's public health service because she had not received the green light from the country's stringent medical certification system.
Today, she is one of thousands of migrant health workers recruited to the frontlines of its fight against the new coronavirus. Portal, 52, and her team visit COVID-19 sufferers at home and in state isolation units in some of Santiago's most crowded, poor and infected areas to conduct tests and assess symptoms, keeping the burden off near-saturated hospitals.
Portal migrated to Chile in 2017 with experience in emergency and respiratory care. Her transformation from outsider to the frontlines of Chile's battle against coronavirus holds up a mirror to the country's uneasy response to wave of migration, largely from crisis-hit Venezuela, that has grown fivefold in 30 years.
Unpublished figures obtained by Reuters show that Chile's public health service lost more than 3,000 workers to illness up until mid-June, but signed up 11,000 more, including 641 doctors, more than half of them foreign nationals.
Critically, many of them are specialists in the fields Chile's public sector has historically lacked and now desperately needs to keep patients alive, the director of the country`s civil service told Reuters.
In recent years, increasing numbers of migrants - particularly tens of thousands who fled an economic and political crisis in Venezuela - have been greeted with dismay in conservative Chile - South America's wealthiest nation and a magnet for migrants across the region.
But the medical emergency has driven right-wing President Sebastian Pinera to seek their assistance.
With a spike in demand for intensive care beds and ventilators and trained teams to man them, and more and more health workers falling sick, the government has announced an emergency law last deployed after the 2010 earthquake to recruit thousands to their medical frontlines.
The law also suspends the need for foreign medical staff to complete the usual, rigourous checks on their qualifications, that include expensive exams for doctors.
As of Friday (July 3), Chile has confirmed over 288,000 coronavirus cases and more than 6,000 deaths.
(Production: Jorge Vega, Paul Vieira)
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