From Bus to Ambulance, a Caring Havana Driver Confronts a Hospital’s Apathy

The P15 bus outside the entrance to the Freyre de Andrade General Clinical Surgical Hospital. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 29 January 2024 — A bus travelling at full speed and persistently honking its horn crossed Carlos III Street in Central Havana on Monday morning. The vehicle, loaded with passengers at at a time of day when demand for urban transport is high, headed towards the entrance of the nearby Freyre de Andrade General Clinical Surgical Hospital, popularly known as “Emergencies.” The reason for the race against the clock? A man who was riding on the bus had fainted, which brought the bus driver’s sense of solidarity into sharp focus.

“The boy next to the man realized that he was collapsing,” reported one of the passengers as the P15 waited outside the emergency room while the driver tried to get the unconscious man to safety. “I brought him here because I am responsible while he is in my vehicle. I couldn’t let him die but now we need a doctor!” cried the employee of the Provincial Transportation Company when faced with a disinterested man cleaning the area around the gatehouse of a hospital short on physicians.

Peering out the windows, many of those waiting inside the bus became frantic, not only because the clock was ticking but also because the “rescue operation” led by the driver and supported by the passengers seemed to have run into the twin barriers of a hospital personnel shortage and the sense of apathy endemic to the Cuban public health system. Finally, the driver himself grabbed a stretcher and had to leave the patient in a hallway, alone and unattended.

Looking out the windows, many of those waiting inside the bus became frantic, not only because the clock was ticking but also because the “rescue operation” to save a man’s life. (14ymedio)

“I don’t know if it was a heart attack or if he fainted from hunger. These days, people drop like flies and the usual response is that, most likely, they didn’t have breakfast,” said a woman who was also on the bus when the incident occurred. “He was lucky the driver was a decent man but now comes the hard part, waiting for a doctor.” The cries that could be heard coming from inside the vehicle filled the narrow access road to the hospital, leading several residents to peer down from their balconies.

“Was there a fight on the bus?” asked a passerby who heard the commotion. “No, someone fainted,” replied the companion of another patient, who was also waiting for someone in a lab coat. The P15 had to be on its way. The driver was met with applause and congratulations when he returned to the vehicle but many kept their gaze on the gatehouse as the bus pulled away. “Will he be okay?” asked one of the passengers who had helped get the man into the hospital. He was met with silence.

Faced with the big waystations of life —  birth, death, managing to reach your destination on time on a Havana bus — few people have answers.


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