Biker paramedics ride to the rescue in Venezuelan capital

by Andrea Tosta

Zully Rodiz and her kind are seen as modern-day angels in the chaos of the Venezuelan capital, roaring off on powerful motorcycles to the scene of a road accident or to bring medicine to the sick.

It’s normally a task for ambulance crews and fully trained paramedics. But in the midst of a collapsing health system, desperate Caracas emergency services are increasingly looking to Rodiz and her friends at the “Angeles de las vias” (“Angels of the Roads”) NGO to fill the gap left by a devastated primary care system.

Rodiz, a 38-year-old architect, says the 12 biker gang members answer emergency calls free of charge to back up poorly resourced paramedics.

State-employed “paramedics here are so badly paid,” said Rodolfo Alvarado, who left a job in the city fire brigade to make a better living in pest control.

He joins up with the “Angels” in his spare time. “I prefer to do it for free in the days that I can,” Alvarado, 30, told AFP.

Alvarado says they can attend up to 18 accidents a day, and it’s not long before they are called into action to help a fellow motorcyclist after a collision with a car.

It takes less than five minutes to brace the right leg of the injured man, who is transferred to hospital shortly afterwards in an ambulance run by the civil defense service.

Normally a Caracas city fire brigade unit would be on the scene, but the emergency services face the same budgetary dilemmas as the rest of Venezuela’s public services. Their coffers are empty.

Hence, in 2018 — when shortages of food and medicine were forcing millions to flee Venezuela’s economic meltdown — the NGO was set up with donor funds to help fill the gap for the emergency services.

Before taking to the streets of Caracas, the “Angels” took first aid lessons in hospitals, which allows them to work with the blessing of the Venezuelan health authorities as they assist the victims of highway accidents. (AFP)