Venezuela's health minister acknowledged Friday that there are "difficulties" in the nation's hospitals following the complaints of medical personnel and patients over the past few weeks about the lack of resources.

"Of course there are difficulties in hospitals, undoubtedly, but the difficulties are handled by working up different plans for the different levels of treatment, and, just like anywhere else in the world, we have to start with the first stage of treatment," Isabel Iturria told reporters.

Iturria said that to attend to these difficulties, the government recently created the so-called "health general staff" to handle specific tasks such as the reparation of hospital infrastructures and the provision of equipment and medical supplies.

These tasks will be carried out first at 11 of Venezuela's 241 public hospitals, though Iturria said the program will later be extended to the other medical centers.

She rejected, however, the idea that a hospital crisis exists, since how well the country's healthcare system is working can be judged by the health indicators since the late President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.

"Infant mortality in the year 1998, for example, stood at 22 out of every 1,000 live births, while now it is 14 deaths out of every 1,000 live births. What must we do to improve? Achieve even lower mortality, of course," she said.

The president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas Leon, told reporters recently that 90 percent of the nation's hospitals "are almost technically closed down" and asked that a healthcare emergency be declared. EFE