PORT OF SPAIN –– A 19-year-old Venezuelan national died hours after he was denied medical care at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope earlier this month.
His body was only flown back to Venezuela on Tuesday for burial. He leaves behind a six-month-old daughter.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian under the condition of strict anonymity, a close friend of Christian Alejandro Naval said Naval came to T&T to vacation and while here he injured his foot. He was taken to the Mt Hope earlier this month after complaining of feeling unwell and weak. Naval lived at Los Teques.
The friend said that Naval was warded and a series of tests were conducted where it was revealed that he had leukaemia and low blood count.
“That was when he was told that because he is not a citizen of T&T that he would not be able to get the proper medical care as the chemo needed was very expensive and that was only available to citizens of this country and not foreigners. They then give him a paper to sign to discharge himself from the hospital,” Naval’s friend said.
The friend said that Naval was subsequently given strict instructions to go straight to Piarco International Airport to return home for the necessary medical care.
“When he got there [May 11] he had purchased his ticket and was waiting for the plane when he collapsed and he was taken back to the EWMSC where he was again treated but he died the next morning [May 12],” the friend said.
The medical certificate listed Naval’s cause of death as acute intraparenchymal, acute myeloid, leukaemia and haemorrhage.
The friend said that upon hearing the news, relatives in Venezuela were too distraught and could not afford to fly his body back home. She added that the Venezuelan Embassy was notified and officials there paid for the body to be flown to Venezuela.
“One of his family members was contacted by the Embassy and flown here to identify the body before the final arrangements could have been made to send his body to Caracas,” the friend said.
“It is a sad situation and we are thankful for the help [from the Venezuelan Embassy and Belgrove’s Funeral Home] for expediting all the documents. We, the friends tried to raise the money but it was hard so we got the Embassy involved and they paid all the expenses in full for us, for which we are grateful.”
Well-known Venezuelan national and T&T resident, psychic Yesenia Gonzalez said she was saddened on hearing the news of Naval’s death and begged the Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to have mercy on cases like Naval’s.
“I did contact the Health Minister and was told that they have a policy not to give medical care to foreigners because it is too expensive but this was a one-off situation. It is not like he came here for medical treatment. He fell sick while here. All I want is for compassion for people from the Health Minister,” Gonzalez said.
In 2015, it was announced that non-nationals of T&T will have to foot their own bills for healthcare as the Health Ministry had at the time began its registration process for the National Health Card.