CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Venezuelan Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López announced that the military will take control of the distribution of "all medical and surgical supplies managed in all hospitals."
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela will take control of the medical supply sector "to guarantee that these medicines and supplies get to the patient efficiently and are neatly distributed and assigned," López said during an address broadcast on state-owned Venezolana de Televisión on Wednesday.
Venezuela is facing an economic and political crisis. Basic goods such as food and toiletries are in short supply, unavailable or unaffordable, while Venezuela's supply of medicine is also running out.
"We are evaluating the health issue. We will go very strongly on the issue of health," López said. "We are going to take full control of the distribution of medicines and medical surgical supplies to all hospitals in the country."
López said he and other Venezuelan officials met with 60 representatives from hospitals nationwide on Tuesday to evaluate the health crisis. He said citizens should not feel "persecuted" or "harassed" by the measure, adding that the military would not be occupying hospitals.
"We are in a state of emergency, an exceptional state and we need to make checks to ensure, I repeat, that medicines and surgical supplies handled in the hospital network will reach the patient, the people of Venezuela," López said.
In May, Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly approved a bill to declare a national humanitarian health crisis that would force the ruling government of President Nicolas Maduro to accept foreign medical aid.
Venezuela continues to experience shortages of medicine, food for the sick and infant formula, and increased maternal mortality rates and loss of transplant organs due to power failures.
The Venezuelan opposition blames government inaction for exacerbating the country's health crisis, whereas Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, argues the health crisis is a symptom of the economic crisis.