14ymedio, Bertha Guillen, Candelaria (Artemisa province), 23 July 2017 — “Where is my laptop?” a dentist at the Candelaria polyclinic in Artemisa province asked Friday while attending a patient. The sale of laptops to doctors – at subsidized prices – does not include graduates in dentistry, by a decision of the Ministry of Public Health that is being strongly questioned.
As of the end of last year they have began to sell the laptops for 668 Cuban pesos (CUP), around 25 dollars, for doctors who obtained a diploma before the end of 2015. The list of beneficiaries includes those who have completed a medical mission abroad and requires that they pay the full amount all at once, not in installments.
The public health system employs a total of 262,764 workers in the island, of which 87,982 work as doctors, according to data from the Statistical Yearbook of 2015. The doctors receive the highest wages in the country, a total of between the equivalent of $50 to $70 US per month.
However, the sector is seriously affected by the desertions of professionals during their missions abroad and the exodus towards other better-paid economic spheres such as self-employment or tourism, of doctors who remain on the island. In addition, physicians must deal with long work hours, material deficiencies and the dissatisfactions of patients.
Since the beginning of this year the doctors have been able to buy laptops in the store for public health workers in the provincial capital. The offer has brought long lines outside the premises and complaints about the capabilities of the equipment.
Since the beginning of these sales, an indeterminate number of laptops has ended up in the informal market, where they are sold for a price ranging between 200 and 300 CUC, between eight and 12 times the original cost.
Recently the official newspaper Granma revealed that each year Cuba collects more than 8.2 billion CUC (roughly the same in dollars) for “the export of health services.”
This month, several meetings in the province of Artemisa notified staff working in polyclinics, hospitals and other health centers that only doctors are entitled to acquire these computers. X-ray technicians, lab workers, and even dental graduates “are not included in this offering,” ministerial authorities said.
The information has generated a barrage of criticism and discontent among dentists and other professionals in the sector. None of them, except graduates in medical sciences, will have access to the merchandise sold in stores authorized for public health personnel. Among these products are also the white coats that are currently distributed on a staggered schedule in Artemisa province.
“This has gone beyond a lack of respect,” said the dentist from Candelaria. “Now it turns out that we are not the same as doctors, but when it comes time to participate in acts of repudiation against the words of Donald Trump, we are.”
Raiza Machín, a dentist from the province, does not speak half-heartedly. “I feel offended, even the self-employed who work in coffee shops wear white coats, how is it possible that as a public health worker we cannot buy them in a store dedicated to us?” asks the professional.
According to the head of the Public Health Workers Union in Candelaria, the information came from the Ministry itself and applies to the whole country. In response to the workers’ discontent, the union representative demanded a meeting with “the highest authority” but has not yet received a response. “For the moment we are not doctors and therefore we can not use the same facilities as they can,” says Machin sarcastically.
“At first they told us that they had to wait until they finished distributing the laptops among the doctors in the hospitals, then it would be the clinics’ turn, and then finally our turn,” says Araceli, a dentist with several years of experience.
“They have strung us along and now that say that we are not doctors, that’s why we don’t get the computers,” complains the dentist. The refusal to allow dentists to buy them became known shortly after the official media assured that the dentists were “guaranteed” laptops.
“Since our title says ‘Doctor of Dentistry’ I have to consider that I am one,” Machín stresses.