Fidel Castro himself had to import a surgeon and full operating room, but we keep hearing about that “excellent free Cuban healthcare.”
The NY Times has an article on how Doctors in Cuba Start Over in the U.S.. Some interesting points:
- By some estimates, 6,000 medical professionals, many of them physicians, have left Cuba in the last six years.
- Cuban medical personnel are mostly indentured servants of the state, earning the equivalent of $25 a month:
- The books used for their training are nearly fifty years old, and the techonology is ancient:
Aside from old books, Cuban medical students and doctors must contend with a lack of modern equipment and, often, of drugs and diagnostic tools taken for granted in developed countries.
In the 50 years since the revolution, Cuba has sent more than 185,000 health professionals on medical missions to at least 103 countries. About 31,000, most of them doctors, are in Venezuela, where they work in exchange for cheap oil and other trade benefits for the Cuban government
Hospital patients have to bring everything, including the sutures thread used for their own surgeries:
The room has a thin light and the air smells of pain. I begin to unpack what I’ve brought. I take out the little sack of detergent and the aromatic with which I’ll clean the bath; its aroma floods everything. With the bucket we can bathe the lady, using the cup to pour, because the water faucet doesn’t work. For the great scrubbing I brought a pair of yellow gloves, afraid of the germs that spread in a hospital. Mónica tells me to continue unpacking and I extract the package of food and a puree especially for the sick. The pillow has been a wonder and the set of clean sheets manages to cover the mattress, stained with successive effluvia.
The most welcome is the fan, which I connect to two peeled wires hanging from the wall. I continue to unpack and come to the little bag of medical supplies. I have obtained some needles appropriate for the IV, because the one in her arm is very thick and causes pain. I also bought some gauze and cotton on the black market. The most difficult thing—which cost me days and incredible swaps—is the suture thread for the surgery they are going to do tomorrow. I also brought a box of disposable syringes since she yells to high heaven when she sees the nurse with a glass one.
The Real Cuba has more (including very graphic photos) on the conditions of that “excellent free Cuban healthcare” that we’ll be hearing about during the Obamacare debate.