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Only Half the Story / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 12, 2015

Fernando Damaso, 11 September 2015 — A few days ago the Cuban Ministry
of Public Health published an extensive article under the headline
“Health Services to Our People Are Guaranteed and Improving.” But it
only told about half the story, ignoring everything else.

The article mentions the participation of the Cuban Medical Brigade in
the fight against ebola, the different types of assistance offered to
other countries suffering from natural disasters, the number of doctors
per capita, the fact that 50,000 health care workers — half of whom are
doctors — are involved in medical missions overseas, that more than
10,700 foreign students train in our schools, and other such statistics.
The country’s commitment to internationalism was also stressed.

Furthermore — and this seems to be the main reason for the article — it
refers to smear campaigns to discredit the work of the Cuban doctors,
like the attitude of some medical associations and colleges that reject
them, and to the continued “brain drain” resulting from doctors moving
into private medical practice.

It also mentions plans to improve working conditions and the quality of
life for doctors in Cuba and even the possibility that those who left
the country for various reasons can rejoin the National Health System
with guaranteed job placement under conditions similar to those they
previously had.

Regarding how health services are actually going to be “guaranteed and
improved,” very little was said, even though one would have expected it
to be the main thrust of the article. Nor was it mentioned that the
salaries of most of those 50,000 health care workers who lend their
services in sixty-eight countries are paid directly to the Cuban
government, which retains the greater percentage of these funds.

Workers are paid only a reduced amount to cover expenses while on their
missions and another reduced amount upon completion of a mission. These
stipends can only be used under strict conditions mandated by authorities.

As is widely known, the income generated from renting out the services
of Cuban professionals to other countries and the remittances from
family members living overseas currently constitute the country’s two
main sources of hard currency.

The article also does not address the conditions of our health care
facilities, which — with the exception of those reserved for foreigners,
high-level officials and their family members — leave much to be desired
in terms of resources, equipment, medications and other supplies
necessary to provide proper care.

Additionally, many members of the Medical Corps treating patients are
either recent graduates or Cuban and foreign medical students doing
their internships by substituting for experienced professionals working
overseas. The article also does not address the conditions under which
health care professionals must work, the low salaries they receive or
the impossibility of realizing their full potential as citizens, all of
which are the main causes for their mass exodus.

It should be noted that, unlike in Cuba, other countries’ medical
associations and colleges operate independently of their governments
and, therefore, are able to defend the interests of their members and
protect them from professional intrusions.

It seems that because the Cuban government provides for their education,
which is its duty and one which many other countries do much better, it
believes Cuba’s trained professionals are its property, denying them the
right each person has to determine how and where he or she wants to live
his or her life.

The incentive it is offering — to go back to where they started from —
just seems like a bad joke.

Source: Only Half the Story / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba –

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