Cuba’s Provincial Press Reports on the Drama in Ciego de Avila Hospitals

For some time, healthcare workers in Ciego de Avila have not been able to fully attend to the needs of their patients. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2021 — In Ciego de Ávila they know what is happening and the local press no longer holds back on reporting it. “I knew we lost my cousin due to problems with oxygen therapy. And it wasn’t just hime,” reports a family member in Morón whose relative died of Covid-19, speaking to the local press Invasor.

While the printed edition of the national State newspaper Granma opens with a display to commemorate — two days in advance — the anniversary of the birth of Fidel Castro and continues to recount the worsening of the pandemic in Florida on page 2, the provincial newspaper offers a lesson in journalism to the propaganda organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, recounting the drama within the walls of the area’s hospitals.

The problem with oxygen is becoming worrisome. According to 14ymedio sources, in Ciego de Ávila’s Antonio Luaces Iraola Hospital there is a shortage, one of the most necessary treatments for patients with pneumonia caused by Covid-19. As a result, on Tuesday night the hospital began transferring patients to another facility. The problem? The referral occurs to Morón, where according to the official press itself, the same problem exists, with its worrying consequences.

In the Invasor report, entitled Morón Hospital, Trojan Horse, an engineer explains that the problem is one of pressure. “The medical gas system of a hospital is not built with a pandemic in mind in which one in five patients may need ventilation. There is a limit on oxygen pressure (4 bars) for mechanical ventilators to work, and the large number of people linked in by the non-invasive route make the pressure drop (to 3 bars) every three hours below this limit, so patients go into apnea and it’s an emergency,” he says.

The system isn’t working. It has reached a point where daily oxygen consumption is 2,220 liters, due to leaks or a shortage of pressure gauges, an unaffordable waste when life is at stake. Repairs and optimization of the systems is a constant now, since the hospital estimates that the amount that it really needs for the patients it has is 1,500 liters per day.

The article does not skimp when reciting the litany of problems that accumulate in the Morón hospital. “Six hours of waiting for an X-ray, two days without changing a sheet, three buses of sick people that nobody wanted somewhere else, 48 hour medical shifts with no relief, two hours asking for them to give you Captopril (an ACE inhibitor for high blood pressure), a little boy who they even assigned you to bathe if necessary, a feeling of suffocation more common than it should be, a nurse searching the entire hospital for a cannula” to place an IV. The complaints that run through social networks now appear in black-and-white in an official newspaper.

Ciego de Ávila, yesterday, once again logged 1,000 infections and the figure has become a constant for days. The 14-day incidence rate in the province is the highest on the island, with 3,152.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. To care for this volume, it has been necessary to mobilize new beds in all the hospitals in the province, 185 alone in the Antonio Luaces Iraola hospital, and to reorganize spaces to accommodate those in isolation and mildly ill patients.

In addition, medical supplies are arriving from abroad, but also from other Cuban provinces, which send everything from thousands of sheets to X-ray or CT machines. And although help is not lacking, neither are those who take advantage of the situation to steal medicines or even to sell the beds.

The newspaper Invasor reports that a rumor is running through the province according to which entering Morón may “cost” 3,000 pesos and, although it has not been able to verify it, it warns of a possible basis in reality: “For some reason (…) Rafaela García, Head of Medical Records and Statistics, has had to get stronger and toughen the oversight on the admissions,” they say.

In the midst of the difficulties, health professionals also face non-compliance with the protocols within the hospital, both by workers and relatives of the sick, who many times, they claim, circulate needlessly through the facilities, or remove their masks.

It is common for the local authorities to deny the seriousness of the situation, but the fact that the local press contrasts it with the testimonies of people affected by reality is a novelty in a provincial press, which slowly awakens to the shock of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Granma dedicated half a page 5 this Wednesday to reviewing the bureaucratic meeting of the previous day in which the extreme situation of Cienfuegos province was analyzed, having already reached the incidence level of Ciego de Ávila in just 14 days, with 3,152.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants but with a difference. While Ciego de Ávila has a strong and active tourism sector that has contributed to the seriousness of the health situation, Cienfuegos is a quieter area.

“When presiding over a meeting aimed at evaluating the scenario and proposing strategies to reverse it, Manuel Marrero Cruz of the Party’s Political Bureau and Prime Minister of the Republic, highlighted the main causes of the complicated situation: non-compliance with the provisions, accumulation of subjective problems and committing errors and indiscipline,” recites the official newspaper. A speech that has gone down badly with healthcare workers, who perceive a willingness on the part of the Government to divert responsibility for the disaster to them.


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