Cuba: Medical Impotence / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya
Posted on February 25, 2015
While the government exports thousands of doctors, old diseases are
coming back, such as dengue fever, tuberculosis, whooping cough,
chikungunya, and cholera, and new exotic diseases are appearing that had
never before been seen on the Island.
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 February 2015 – For a few days,
Maritza thought that her four-year-old son’s persistent cough was due to
a combination of a cold and his chronic allergies. The crisis had
started with a fever and a few episodes of hacking cough, and had
escalated over the next couple of days, even though he was no longer
running a fever. The pediatrician’s diagnosis confirmed Maritza’s
suspicions: Alain was suffering from a viral infection, so they would
follow the normal treatment in cases like his: they would watch him,
give him plenty of liquids, expectorants and antihistamines
But after two weeks, his coughing got so much stronger and frequent that
Maritza ended up having to go to Pediatric Hospital at Centro Habana so
that her son – already cyanotic and having respiratory spasms — could be
treated with oxygen. Almost by happenstance, an experienced doctor who
heard the child cough took an interest in the case, and, after a more
detailed examination, made her diagnosis as whooping cough, a disease
Maritza had never heard of and against which – at least in theory — all
Cuban children are protected, thanks to subsidized national health
system vaccination programs. Furthermore, according to official
statistical records, whooping cough (pertussis) was eradicated from Cuba
many years ago.
Thanks to that doctor’s providential presence, Alain was treated with
the appropriate antibiotics and, following the advice of the doctor,
Maritza asked a relative who resides abroad for an emergency shipment of
a medication that does not exist in Cuba, pertussis suppositories, used
in the treatment to lessen the child’s coughing crisis.
Alain is recovering now, but his convalescence may take up to three
months or more. Maritza has overcome her anxiety, but wonders how many
children will be in the same predicament, considering that this highly
infectious disease is circulating around the Island, and health
authorities have not sounded the alarm. In fact, she recently found out
that in the past several years the incidence of whooping cough has been
on the rise, not only among children, but also among adults.
The lack of information in the official media results in the population
not having a clear perception of the risk, and turns Article 50 of the
Constitution of the Republic of Cuba into meaningless babble. The
article establishes the right of all Cubans to medical care and health
protection, and points to the State as guarantor of that right.
Turning back the clock
Dengue fever, tuberculosis, whooping cough, chikungunya (*), cholera …
With the reappearance of old diseases, the introduction of others that
did not exist on the Island and the lack of effective drugs, it would
seem that Cuba has regressed to the nineteenth century. However, the
Cuban national health system remains a prestigious benchmark for
international agencies, particularly since lending Cuban medical
services abroad has become the most important source of the government’s
capital income and a powerful political tool, given that it allows
displaying as example of solidarity and altruism what is actually a
poorly disguised form of modern slavery.
So, while the government exports the service of tens of thousands of
medical professionals at the expense of a loss of attention to Cubans,
and the exposure of the Cuban population to multiple imported diseases,
the institutional bureaucracy of international organizations
congratulates itself on being able to count on a whole army of doctors
mobilized by the regime to deal with epidemics and other pathologies.
The government of any moderately democratic nation would never be able
to recruit doctors as if they were mercenaries.
The truth is that Cuba currently has two opposing systems: one of
“health”, which only exists in theory and today is a sad imitation of
what it once was; and the other of “unhealth”, much more efficient,
endorsed in a completely dismal hospital and services infrastructure,
and in the continuing incursion of exotic diseases, imported by our
doctors from the most infected corners of the globe, since, upon their
return home to Cuba, the practice of a rigorous quarantine plan and
infection risk control is not followed.
All this in a nation that, in the late 50s of the last century, stood
out among the top in terms of health care at the regional and global
levels, with a respectable hospital network in addition to membership
clinics, emergency clinics, maternity hospitals and other health
services, both free and private.
At this rate, it is likely that, when the Castro regime finally ends, we
may have to request emergency services from the World Health
Organization itself and from the International Red Cross in order to
address Cubans’ health crisis, as occurred during the US occupation
after the 1898 War of Independence, which created the basis for what
would become, during the Republic, one of the most enviable health
systems of its time.
*A viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Cuba: Medical Impotence / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya | Translating