In the fourth year of a brutal recession, Venezuela is suffering widespread shortages of medicines and basic medical equipment.
The violence added to a mounting toll of bloodshed as Venezuela's opposition vows to step up near-daily demonstrations and Maduro shows no intention of conceding to opposition demands. The country's health ministry recently reported sharp increases in infant and maternal deaths as well as a rise in diseases like malaria and diptheria.
Vice President Tareck El Aissami announced late Thursday that Health Minister Antonieta Caprole was being replaced by Luis Lopez, previously secretary of health in the state of Aragua.
Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said the opposition would take its protests "to another stage" as Maduro continues his push to rewrite the nation's constitution.
The report was the first release of Health Ministry figures in almost two years, part of a wider government data blackout.
Elected in 2013, Maduro is resisting pressure for an early vote, calling the crisis a US-backed conspiracy. A month and a half of sometimes violent protests has led to the deaths of 38 people.
Lines of police officers blocked thousands of protesters from advancing in the capital city of Caracas.
Some demonstrators pushed against the plastic shields of officers, who at times responded with bursts of pepper spray, according to videos posted on social media.
Protests in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro remained mostly tranquil, but outside the capital demonstrators clashed with police and national guardsmen. Opponents of Maduro blame his socialist policies for the crisis. A representative of the office listened briefly to their grievances on the street instead.
Venezuelan anti-government protesters who have been throwing human excrement at riot police during demonstrations are resorting to use of "chemical weapons", a senior Venezuelan official said.Judicial inspector general Marielys Valdez spoke out Wednesday after protesters hurled jars of feces dubbed "Poopootov cocktails" during the latest in weeks of clashes in Caracas.
The crowd, including plenty of octogenarians plus a nun and one white-haired man dressed as Santa, sang Venezuela's national anthem in front of the security cordon. Opposition leaders joined them, hugging and linking arms with the pensioners.
Scores of government supporters also gathered in Caracas near Miraflores palace, wearing red, punching their fists in the air and chanting pro-Maduro slogans. They are blocking our way out, a violent mob, ' said Isea yesterday in a recording made inside the building, where he was kidnapped for around five hours, together with 1000 guests.
Some material from this report was provided by Reuters.