THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering what this major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat patients.”
THE WASHINGTON POST: “The export of medical services will net Cuba 8.2 billion dollars in 2014, according to a recent report in the [Cuban] newspaper Granma.”
14ymedio, 23 October 2014 — Days after publishing an article entitled “Cuba stands at the forefront of the fight against Ebola,” the Spanish daily El País goes a bit further with a discussion of the issue. “The landing of white coats in countries decimated by scarcities allows Cuba to generate prestige with its international presence, to reset its conceptual discourse about fundamental human rights, and to promote government alliances in a good part of Africa, Asia and Latin America… where its vaccines and bandages are appreciated more than the Western powers’ exhortations for democracy,” writes Juan Jesus Aznarez. In addition, the newspaper echoes the news that doctors who travel to West Africa and contract the virus will not be repatriated.
“Although the United Station and other countries have expressed willingness to contribute money, only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering what this major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat patients,” says an editorial in the New York Times praising Cuba’s involvement in sending human resources.
In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a roadmap to address the crisis caused by the epidemic. Since then the needs of all types required by such an outbreak have been specified. So far 4,877 people of the 9,936 reported cases (almost all in West Africa) have died. Among the affected, there are 443 health workers, of whom 244 died.
WHO needs financial aid of some one billion dollars to pay for the salaries of professionals, materials, courses and information campaigns. The collection so far has reached only one-third of that and, if the outbreak behaves according to the agency’s predictions, financial needs could soar to 20 billion.
But WHO has run into a serious funding problem: the shortage of human resources. “Money and materials are important, but those two things alone can not stop the transmission of the Ebola virus. Human resources are clearly our most important need,” said its director, Dr. Margaret Chan.
Cuba is an economically failed country, with a per capita income of just $ 6,011 (2011 data), but it has one of the highest rates of physicians per 10,000 people: 59. Havana has turned its medical power into a huge business, according to the official newspaper Granma, receiving more than eight billion dollars a year for services provided abroad. The government sells the labor of health workers at a high price and pays them low wages (e.g., Brazil pays $4,300 for each Cuban doctor; the doctor actually receives only $1,000).
Who will pay the expenses and salaries of the 461 doctors and nurses Raul Castro’s government has committed to fight Ebola in Africa? This information was not revealed, and the WHO director, normally very talkative about the exploits of the Cuban regime with regards to public health, has not said a word about it.
“Critics have complained that Cuba has begun to sacrifice the health of its citizens at home to make money sending medical workers abroad, and the conditions for these medical workers themselves have been criticized,” said an editorial in The Washington Post. The text, entitled “In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above its weight,” was complimentary overall, and so was reproduced in Cubadebate.cu, a government run website, but with a few corrections added, including: “The country has undertaken a comprehensive plan to repair its health facilities and perfect its patient care system, based on the recognized dissatisfactions with the services.” It remains to be seen if these will materialize.