[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: But the Healthcare is Free (Continued)

Monday, August 15, 2005

But the Healthcare is Free (Continued)

That's what fidel apologists always tout. Of course, it would be better if there were actual doctors available, right? That's part of the severe health crisis facing Cuba today, according to this report in El Nuevo Herald by Wilfredo Cancio Isla. Below is a translation of the main parts of the article.

Health Crisis in Cuba

The recent deaths of children and adults as a result of an epidemic breakout in Cuba are barely the tip of the iceberg in a battered public health system that for decades proclaimed itself as a model of excellence and a great achievement of Fidel Castro' revolution.

Although the Cuban government on July 25th did informe of the deaths of eight minors, recognizing the "affected water supply, domestic fuel availability, and electrical service to the population" as possible factors tied to the hygienic-epidemic situation, independent sources and testimonies point at deeper causes, related to the galloping deterioration of health conditions and medical care in the country.

A four-page report by the Center of Health and Human Rights "Juan Bruno Zayas" questions the assertions published in a release by the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), and also questions the number of deaths confirmed by Cuban authorities.

"In internal meetings with doctors, a total of 31 deaths involving children and adults have been handled in Havana alone, but there must be even more", indicated Dr. Darsi Ferre, director of Juan Bruno Zayas. "We are continuing to compile all the data to alert the population and international public opinion of the dangers that we currently face in Cuba and the immorality of the authorities who don't properly inform its citizens."

"Several factors appear to have a decisive influence in these breakouts'', affirms the document. "They are: the lack of attention given to the epidemic control programs of transmitted diseases, due primarily to the lack of qualified personnel, the lack of motivation of the part of the professionals in those fields and the lack of resources required to accomplish the tasks; as well as the deplorable hygienic-sanitary state, characterized by the presence of garbage dumps on every city block".

The four-page text, that even manages to track down opinions of MINSAP employees, observes that the provision water provision is irregular throughout the country and the pipes are seriously damaged, resulting in the contamination of the water drains.

In addition to the virosis, the report points to an increase of epidemics of dengue, hepatitis, leptospirosis and meningoencefalitis. "The situation is very serious", confessed a pediatrician of a clinic in Havana. And many people think that all this is because of the lack of qualified personnel due to the large number of doctors who have been sent to Venezuela and other missions outside the country."

In order to erase these black marks, the Cuban government is promoting short-duration courses for nurses and health technicians.

This year, 29,000 students are projected to enroll in the medical science fields, the most in Cuba's history. Conscious of displeasure in this professional sector, Castro announced in June the increase in wages for all health workers, with a maximum of 573 pesos (about $21) as basic wage for specialized doctors.

But the wage increase is not providing enough stimulus for doctors and stomachologists, who see foreign missions as an alternative in order to make money in dollars and to remove themselves from the tense national reality.

Arco Progresista, a moderate dissident organization, has already alerted on the exodus of health professionals to Venezuela and the humiliating reorientation of medical services to foreigners.

"The government of Venezuela worries and takes care of the health of Venezuelans. The Cuban government does as well. Who then worries and takes care of the health of Cubans?", dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa questioned. "Entire communities in this country have seen their doctors sent to other countries, and how they themselves have been neglected by a badly-understood solidarity, strictly for the political benefits of the authorities of Cuba".


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