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During his weekly television and radio program, Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez inaugurated the first diagnostic center in the Venezuelan state of Monagas and honored the second phase of the community health care program Mission Barrio Adentro: Barrio Adentro II. Chávez also announced plans to create Mission Barrio Adentro III, which would revamp Venezuela’s faltering hospital system.

Mission Barrio Adentro II proposes to expand the health care services offered to Venezuelans. In addition to the thirty diagnostic centers, (each with their own rehabilitation centers) that were inaugurated yesterday, it is foreseen that a 600 centers will be built. One out of every four diagnostic centers will have operating rooms and ambulances.

Mission Barrio Adentro is an integral part of the Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation agreement. In exchange for oil shipments of up to 90,000 barrels per day, over 20,000 Cuban doctors and dentists are providing free health care services to Venezuelans near their homes in the country’s poorest communities; many of whom had never seen a doctor before.

Also part of the program is the training Venezuelan medical students in integral community medicine in Cuba. Since its inception two years ago, Barrio Adentro has registered over 185.7 million visits and saved over 25,000 lives. The Cuban doctors have also focused on “preventative medicine,” organizing workshops to educate Venezuelans on how to maintain their health through diet and exercise.

Along with the Governor of Monagas, José Gregorio Briceño, and the Venezuelan Minister of Health and Social Development, Francisco Armada, Chávez thanked the authorities and the government of Cuba for their support in the program Barrio Adentro II. “We are all very pleased, because whatever the cost, whatever the effort, this forms part of Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation. We thank the Cuban people, the Cuban government, Fidel Castro, Cuban scientists and the Cuban doctors,” stated Chávez.

Chávez already has his sights set on Mission Barrio III, a program that will equip and modernize 300 already existing hospitals throughout the country with adequate and up-to-date supplies. According to Chávez, there are hospitals with medical teams that are more than forty years behind, technologically, and with deteriorated buildings. The beginning stages of Mission Barrio Adentro III have already been set in motion; there are currently teams evaluating the needs of the country’s hospitals and deciding whether or not the building has deteriorated to the point with it is necessary to construct a new health center.

After taking a moment to recognize the efforts of the over 50,000 Venezuelan students who are collaborating with the project, Chávez called upon all Venezuelan doctors to involve themselves in Barrio Adentro.

The Venezuelan President also honored Mission Miracle, another Venezuelan-Cuban initiative that has transported over 15,400 people to Cuba for have surgery. Setting the bar high, he announced that the goal this year is to carry out 100,000 surgeries in Cuba. Over 66,000 people have been examined and are on the waiting list to be operated.