Monday, August 18, 2014

Coming to the aid of Cuba

Coming to the aid of Cuba
Melissa Villeneuve

The generosity of a local couple and their doctor was felt halfway
around the world, thanks to their donation of medical equipment and
supplies in Cuba. Now they hope the public will come aboard to assist in
their humanitarian effort.

Most people leave room in their suitcases to bring back souvenirs and
trinkets from the places they've seen, but for Wayne Hawthorne and his
wife Marilyn Cortez, it's the exact opposite. They travel to Cuba for
two to three months each year, and for the last couple trips they've
readily left some luggage contents behind.

"I've been to Cuba five times now, and I've found there are a lot of
things you can't buy in Cuba, or things they cannot afford," says
Hawthorne. "So we would go down with our luggage loaded up and come back
with it empty," he chuckles.

According to WestJet policy, the airline provides transport up to 50
pounds of goods and equipment for humanitarian use, at no extra charge,
beyond the ticket price. Hawthorne says they take 50 pounds each, on top
of their regular luggage allowance, of mostly clothing, colouring books,
pencils and crayons for kids – items that are either really expensive or
unavailable in Cuba. On one of their previous trips, they discovered
there was a need for updated medical equipment in the clinics in Cuba.

Hawthorne told his family doctor, Dr. Riyaz Mohamed, of the ancient
equipment used in Cuba and asked if he had any unused supplies or
equipment he could donate that they would then take over. Dr. Mohamed
discovered he could donate an autoclave, a machine used to sterilize
needles and equipment through high steam pressure.

"At one time, Dr. Mohamed required an autoclave but later, he found that
a surgical supply company could deliver sterile instruments right to his
office," said Hawthorne. "That service saved his staff the time that was
required to operate the autoclave, so he was happy to donate it." >

The couple delivered the autoclave to the polyclinic "Mario Munoz
Monroy," which is a health-care centre and teaching hospital in Guanabo,
Habana Este. Hawthorne says they were able to get it through customs
with a letter from the receiving doctor, Dr. Francisco Felipe Hern‡ndez
G‡rciga, a.k.a. Dr. Pancho.

Although Dr. Mohamed doesn't consider the autoclave a "major" donation,
those on the receiving end of this gift were overjoyed, as it will speed
up their sterilization times threefold. And, Hawthorne says, the old
machine that was replaced will in turn be passed down to another Cuban
health centre that doesn't have a very good one.

"Nothing ever goes to waste," he says.

While the health-care system is free in Cuba for everyone, including
tourists, doctors don't make much money and they're not well equipped in
terms of our standards.

"Our Dr. Poncho gets about $32 per month pay and in addition about $12
worth of food stamps, which every Cuban gets," said Hawthorne. Despite
low wages, Hawthorne says medical treatment is excellent in Cuba and
that they train doctors for all the Carribbean countries as a way of
having something to trade.

"Venezuela gives them a lot of petrol products, so they train doctors
for them," he says. "Some Cuban doctors actually go to those countries
to work and the deal is Venezuela pays them $13,000 per year for a
doctor but the doctor only gets to keep $4,000. The rest goes back to
Cuba to pay for his education."

Hawthorne hopes to encourage other Alberta travellers and physicians to
contribute to the cause, as in Canada, we are discarding medical
equipment that is easily used in Cuban medical clinics and hospitals. He
says patients can ask their physicians if they have any unused equipment.

"It's just a case of finding people who go down to Cuba," says
Hawthorne. "We've got a whole bunch of stuff ready to go this year as
well. Dr. Mohamed says he's going to give us one of those things that
tells you how much oxygen is in your blood, so we'll take that down."

For anyone interested in contributing, Hawthorne says Dr. Riyaz Mohamed
can be a point of contact at 403-732-5515.

Source: Coming to the aid of Cuba › The Lethbridge Herald – -

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