Cuba’s Military Appropriated Almost 70 Billion Dollars From Cuba’s Healthcare System

Return of a group of Cuban doctors who traveled to Qatar in 2021 to help the emirate face the covid-19 pandemic. (Ministry of Health)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, December 4, 2023 — The Cuban Observatory for Social Audit (OCAC) accuses the Cuban Government of having appropriated almost 70 billion dollars from international missions, money that was never reinvested in the National Health System. The organization – based in Madrid, made up of activists, researchers and journalists and part of the network of the Cuba Siglo 21 ideas center — has released a report titled Cuba: GAESA’s plundering of health security in which it describes the military conglomerate’s plundering from the national Public Health.

The text is based on the premise, put forward by the Cuban regime, that the appropriation is carried out to sustain the universal and free health service; an appropriation that can amount to 90% of the salary of health workers sent to work abroad.

The authorities defend that their system is based on the free training of professionals who, in exchange, receive a small part of the payment that foreign governments make for them and deliver the rest to the State, so that the State can continue to offer Cubans medical assistance without making payments. The regime has defended this repeatedly when they have been accused of sending doctors to do forced labor.

Gaesa, the holding company of the new Cuban oligarchy, using the International Financial Bank, not only robbed the doctors, it robbed the nation, thereby promoting the dismantling of the public health system

However, the OCAC has analyzed the statistics released by the Government itself through the National Office of Statistics and Information (Onei) which show that in the last 13 years – the period studied – at least 13 times more was invested in the construction of hotels than in the healthcare sector.

According to a note published by this newspaper, in 2022 alone the amount was even greater, since 33% of the State budget (23,360 million pesos, almost one billion dollars at the official exchange rate) was allocated to “business services and real estate,” while 2.1% went to Health and public assistance (1.52 billion pesos or 63.4 million dollars), that is, 16 times less.

The OCAC report precisely details the money “looted” by Gaesa at 69,866,399,679 dollars and requests that both it, the Ministry of Public Health and the companies exporting Cuban medical services make public all their accounts and immediately refund the money into the system.

“Gaesa, the holding company of the new Cuban oligarchy, using the International Financial Bank, not only robbed the doctors, it robbed the nation, thereby promoting the dismantling of the public health system,” the organization argues in a press release which broadly describes some of the report’s conclusions.

The document establishes that the entire health network of the Island is in visible decline, from sewage and water supply to garbage collection, pest elimination and, of course, hospitals, health centers, pharmacies and medicines.

The number of hospitals fell by 32% between 2007 and 2018, including the closure since 2011 of all those located in rural areas. Added to this are the closures of polyclinics, 9% less, and of rural and urban posts since 2020.

“The country went from having a total of 312,406 employees as medical personnel in 2021, to 281,098 in 2022. Health personnel decreased by 31,308 in just 12 months, from 2021 to 2022. This category includes senior, middle and basic technicians , technologists and other health graduates,” adds the text, underlining a complaint previously made by the independent press.

The drop in medications is also taken into account, which doubled this year compared to 2020. In 2023, the number of drugs missing from the basic table amounts to 172, compared to 84 three years ago. In addition, a Cubadata survey found 46.7% of respondents considered it “very difficult” to obtain medicines.

Members of the OCAC carried out their own verification this September, visiting several pharmacies throughout the Island, verifying the shortage of painkillers, antibiotics, antihypertensives, antiparasitics, anti-inflammatories, anxiolytics and antidepressants.

The situation has been recognized in numerous interventions by the Government itself, which, however, attributes the causes to complications in the supply of raw materials or financial problems derived from the US embargo.

The authorities also admitted to having used a large amount of resources in the manufacture of their own vaccines against Covid-19, decapitalizing part of their pharmaceutical industry, which stopped producing equally or more important drugs. Among the consequences, there is an exorbitant increase in the cost of medicines on the black market.

“Health security today has two groups: those who have relatives in the diaspora or access to dollars, and those who depend on income in national currency”

“Health security today has two groups: those who have relatives in the diaspora or access to dollars, and those who depend on income in national currency,” states the OCAC, which extends the situation to all types of medical care. As by the independent press has warned on numerous occasions, the corruption of the Health system has worsened before everyone’s eyes. A payment or a gift expedites the visit to a doctor, the performance of a test or even, the speed for a vital surgical intervention.

Furthermore, there are multiple cases in which the lack of medical supplies has ended up causing the worsening or even the death of some patients, such as the recent death of a motorist from Bayamo for which six doctors who treated him without being able to save his life are being prosecuted. The health workers used inadequate material in the absence of what was optimal and are now accused of negligence.

The organization wonders where almost 70 billion dollars earned in 14 years have gone and why no explanations are requested. Furthermore, they disagree with the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur, who considers that US sanctions affect medical care in Cuba. “OCAC considers this assessment to be erroneous. The real cause of the crisis in the Cuban health system is of an endogenous and systemic nature: the deliberate abandonment of the constitutional responsibilities of the State with the basic needs of the population. An additional fact: the embargo does not prevent the acquisition of health equipment and medicines in the United States,” the document states.

This Sunday, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, while on a trip to the Middle East, visited the international mission in Qatar, located in what is known as the Cuban Hospital of Dukhan, inaugurated in 2012. According to information from the newspaper The Guardian, the Arab country pays between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars for each doctor hired.


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