MSF opens COVID-19 treatment center in Caracas, Venezuela

Two staff members at Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital carefully check MSF's protocols. Teams do this every day.
Venezuela 2020 © MSF
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The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has opened a COVID-19 treatment center in a wing of the Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital in Petare, one of the most populated areas of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

The COVID-19 treatment center was set up in collaboration with the hospital’s management team and Venezuelan authorities and has 22 beds, including 16 inpatient beds and six intensive care beds. As well as medical care, patients and their families will receive psychological care.

“Due to the urgency of the situation and the need to adapt the hospital structure to the biosecurity measures without compromising the rest of its emergency activities, it has been hard work and not without challenges,” said Isaac Alcalde, who is coordinating MSF's emergency responses in Caracas and Miranda. “This has been possible thanks to the willingness of MSF staff and the hospital’s management team to find the best solutions for patients.”

MSF also trained Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital staff and provided them with personal protective equipment (PPE). A 100-person team of MSF and hospital staff—including doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, psychologists, technicians, and transport and maintenance personnel—have already begun caring for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

So far, one of the biggest challenges for MSF’s global response to the coronavirus pandemic is the shortage of PPE for its medical teams. “We know that in many countries health workers have been exposed to [the virus], and there have been many infections due to the lack of PPE,” said Alcalde. “We will do our best to ensure that this does not happen [in Petare], but even with sufficient protection, the medical teams will face very difficult situations, both personally and professionally. We will make sure to provide them with all the support they need, including psychological support, to minimize the impact of this extraordinary situation.”  

People arriving at the Ana Francisca Pérez de León II hospital suspected to be infected with coronavirus are welcomed by a medical team and questioned about their symptoms before being tested. Those who test positive are taken to the isolation area and given medical and psychological care. An MSF team also visits patients’ families to provide health information and psychological support. They also trace patients’ contacts and look for other people with symptoms in their communities.

MSF also operates three ambulances—and has rehabilitated five public ambulances—to transport patients between hospitals and from local diagnosis centers to hospitals. The ambulance service is not only for coronavirus patients but also for patients suffering from other medical emergencies.

In Venezuela, MSF has adapted its operations in response to the COVID-19 emergency, giving priority to the most vulnerable people in Anzoátegui, Amazonas, Bolívar, Sucre, Miranda, and the Capital district. In Venezuela, MSF also treats patients with other illnesses and diseases. MSF has worked in Venezuela since 2015.