Cholera in Cuba
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Five in Cuban home for the elderly died under disputed circumstances.

Posted on Tuesday, 01.28.14

Five in Cuban home for the elderly died under disputed circumstances.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
Five people at a state-run home for the elderly in Havana died in a
24-hour period last week from what the home’s administrator said were
normal causes but dissidents say was a lack of proper nutrition and
clothes during a cold spell.

“We believe that they died from problems rather than normal diseases,”
said Calixto R. Martinez, an independent Havana journalist who first
wrote about the deaths in a report published by a Miami-based Web site,
Cubanet.

Cuba’s public health system, once ranked among the best in Latin
America, has been rapidly eroding since the Soviet Union collapsed and
ended its massive subsidies to Havana, estimated at $4 billion to $6
billion per year.

At least 20 elderly inmates at Havana’s largest psychiatric hospital,
allegedly malnourished and lacking warm clothing, died in one day in
January 2010 when temperatures dropped to nearly 37 degrees.

Martinez said Arcadio Santamaría, director of the Chung Wah Home for the
Elderly and dissidents Yoeldis Giménez and Yosvani Torres Zaldívar told
him that the five people died between Tuesday, Jan. 21 and Wednesday,
Jan. 22.

Santamaría initially told El Nuevo Herald in a brief chat that no one
had died, then said there had been five “normal” deaths but that he
would not comment further over the phone and invited the reporter to
interview him in person at the home.

Martinez said Santamaría told him that government investigators
determined the deaths “occurred because of natural causes and not from
what people are saying,” and added that one died at the home and the
others at hospitals where they were sent on Tuesday.

The journalist reported the dissidents told him that employees of the
home had said the five died at the facility from malnutrition and cold.
Havana last week reported lows of 50 degrees on the 21stand 59 on the 22nd.

Both the dissidents and home employees told him that State Security
agents and other state officials turned up at the home Wednesday to
investigate the case, Martinez added in a phone interview with El Nuevo
Herald.

“If they had died from normal diseases in different places there would
be no reason for State Security to be there,” he said. State Security
investigators usually handle politically sensitive cases.

Cuba’s news media monopoly reported nothing on the 2010 deaths at the
psychiatric hospital until the case became known abroad, and so far has
published nothing on the Chung Wah deaths. The home was founded by the
Chinese community and nationalized by the Castro government in the 1960s.

Martinez, who in 2012 also broke the news of Cuba’s first cholera
outbreak in a century, wrote in his report that the two dissidents
alerted him to the five deaths on Thursday but it took him time to
confirm some of the details.

Santamaria told him Sunday that he and his staff take the best care of
their patients and that the government provides all the supplies needed
to guarantee the well-being of its elderly.

But another Cubanet report in December 2012, by independent journalist
Reinaldo Cosano, described the Chung Wah home as “a Dantesque warehouse”
for 250 patients where employees steal food, clothing, toothpaste and
soap meant for the elderly.

Toilets stink, patients are bathed from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. in both summer
and winter and sometimes with cold water because the water heater breaks
down, according to that report. Some of the patients suffered from
mange, a skin disease most often seen in dogs, and only two nurses are
on weekend duty.

Source: Five in Cuban home for the elderly died under disputed
circumstances. – Americas – MiamiHerald.com –
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/28/3898692/five-in-cuban-home-for-the-elderly.html

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