By Dr. Eduardo Herrera Duran.*
News media inside and outside of Cuba highlight the functioning of the Island’s health care system. They consider it exemplary, and even compare with developed countries.
Many of my medical colleagues and I have been discussing the condition of medical care in recent years. The majority of us agree that it has been deteriorating for more than 20 years. Contrary to what the Cuban state communicates.
The lack of professional, technical and service personnel in the public health centers – something that militates against good care – is evident. At the wards that receive a great number of patients, often one can find only one nurse – even in intensive care units, where the ratio should be one nurse per patient. In general, each nurse is tending to two or three very gravely ill patients at a time.
Nor can we find nurse assistants, nor cleaning staff; in the best of cases, these are not sufficient to the task. All of which causes the hygiene in the various departments to not be what it should be in a center for treating the sick.
The number of physicians has been gradually diminishing because of their recruitment for the so-called “missions,” which generate juicy revenues for the government. All of which increases the number of patients for each doctor to see, which adversely impacts the quality of care.
To all this, let us add the shortages of necessary medications, supplies and equipment that we do not have on hand when we are treating patients. This affects not only the patients and their families, but also the public health personnel who find themselves unable to provide good service.
Insufficient compensation, the high cost of living, and increased demand in the country have also influenced the health care sector, which is among the most essential for maintaining the well-being of our citizens.
Unquestionably, these factors have influenced the sector’s deterioration. Officials from the Public Health Ministry, during their scheduled visits to the health care centers, see only what they want to see, and do not reflect the reality of what is occurring in their reports to the citizenry. They say that although there are fewer health care centers, medical care has increased in quality.
Referring to what the Public Health Minister said in the most recent meeting of the National Assembly of the People’s Power, one of the physicians, with whom I conversed, Dr. Dayte, said (with humor despite the adversity we face), “Possibly, when they refer to medical attention, there is some misunderstanding, and it is really medical tension that has increased.”
*Dr. Edward E. Herrera Duran. He is a physician, specialist in surgery, living in Cuba and works at the University General “Calixto Garcia” in Havana, Cuba. He writes articles about health to Hablemos Press Agency.
Source: Hablemos Press and Translating Cuba. Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison