Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cuban Health Care is in a Coma

Cuban Health Care is in a Coma
Iván García
Posted by Translating Cuba in Iván García, Translator: Unstated

Youtube video-Cuba, Hospitals (Hijas de Galicia, Luyano)

Armando, 71, was admitted at "Miguel Enriquez" Hospital, in the Havana's
suburb of Luyano, for what it as supposed to be a low risk surgery in
one leg.

Armando, who is diabetic, was hoping to leave the operating room with no
complications and say goodbye to his daughter with a traditional meal
and rum, whom would be returning to New York — where she has been living
for the past 12 years – the day after his surgery. It didn't happen.

After the apparently successful surgery, he repeatedly had seizures and
loss of consciousness. After being checked, the doctor found out that a
rapidly growing bacterial infection had already started to devour his body.

Nothing could save his life. The doctor met with the family and, staring
at the floor, informed them that the patient had only a few hours of
life. "You can say your 'goodbyes' now," said the doctor.

Between tears and surprise, the family kept wondering where did he got
the lethal bacteria. And the answer left them in awe: right there in the

The worse part is that this is not an isolated incident. A person who
preferred to remain anonymous said that in this year, in the "Miguel
Enriquez" hospital, about 30 patients have died after contracting lethal
bacteria. "In the bathrooms and in the operating rooms is where they are
contracting those bacterial infections," added the person.

I went to several hospitals and urgent care clinics in Havana and what I
saw scared me. With the exception of the National Hospital which was
recently remodeled, the former Covadonga Clinic, and the "Luis de la
Puente Uceda" urgent care clinic, the rest of the medical facilities'
buildings are in a deplorable state and in embarrassing hygienic conditions.

And the bad news keeps coming. The Cuban public health system is also
sinking in the areas of pediatrics and OB/GYN facilities. It was
confirmed to me by an employee of the OB/GYN hospital "Hijas de Galicia"
in the 10 de Octubre municipality. According to her, last year five
newborns died in that hospital due to viruses they caught in the same
hospital where they were born.

Adela, mother of a three-year-old admitted in "Hijas de Galicia," said
she spent the night killing the roaches that were all over the room.
"It's an embarrassment. The bathrooms are depressing. The food is
disgusting. And, as usual in Cuban hospitals, patient's relatives need
to bring everything from home; fan, sheets, towels and containers to
save water. If my son has to go to that operating room, he could get an
infection there."

Despite the deterioration and lack of minimal hygiene, in the hospitals
that I visited, there was always a team of doctors in the ER. They lack
everything, and they still do everything they can.

The former "Dependiente" hospital is bad, but the absolute worst on the
list is the "Miguel Enriquez" hospital. The interior ceiling is
nonexistent and you can see perfectly all the electrical wires and AC
ducts. On rainy days, the housekeeping staff spreads containers
everywhere to catch the water filtering through the roof. Floors are
being cleaned with no soap or disinfectant. Where there is some, they
usually leave the premises in the personal bag of the employees.

In mental institutions and nursing homes for the elderly, the picture is
even worse. One just needs to remember that in January 2010, 26 patients
at the Psychiatric Hospital "Mazorra" died of hunger and abuse. In many
nursing homes, the elderly have to go out to the streets to sell
newspapers and cigarettes, and with that little money they make, the go
to some state-ran small eatery to eat a meal as poorly prepared as the
one at the nursing home, but at least a little bit bigger.

Without making a big fuss about it, the government of the Castro
brothers has tried to do something about it. Last July they deposed the
public health minister, Jose Ramon Balaguer, one of the Revolution's
"historical figures."

But things are still bad.

Because of the evident lack of money, the hospitals are repaired in baby
steps. People can't understand how Cuba can send medical help to other
countries when the island is in need.

The excuse of the 'embargo', when it comes to the purchase of medicines
and equipment put forward by the government is questionable. In clinics
designated to treat people form the outside, like Cira Garcia or in
facilities for the Miraculous Operation patients, a project for eye
operations for Latin American people, the hosting conditions and the
food are of a great quality.

"Of course, they pay with dollars and the care we receive is free,"
pleaded Joaquin, who has been waiting for two years for an operation of
minimum access to his knee. Also the military high hierarchy and the
government officials have well equipped clinics and latest generation

The Cuban public health care is one of the achievements the revolution
most boasts about. If the situation is not reversed in time, everything
achieved could be lost. That, for a Third World country, believe me, has
not been a small achievement.

October 13, 2010

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