Letter of One (?) Cuban Doctor / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

These heartfelt words come, crisp, clean and sincere, to our mailbox, written by a colleague I don’t know; I never saw his face, never shook his hand, I don’t even know if Eider exists, but here are the words, complete. / Jeovany Jimenez Vega



Days ago I had the opportunity to read an open letter issued by the General Surgery Department of the Calixto Garcia Hospital denouncing the deplorable working conditions they face every day.

The letter addresses issues extremely important points and says: … “the government is responsible for all this, and not only to know it, but also to solve it.” This letter has high levels of courage and I believe that it’s purpose is to make an emergency call to focus once and for all on the growing disgust of the Cuban doctor.

We must demand that our government has to differentiate us from the rest of the working people. We are doctors and we handle the gift of life and that deserves respect. We can not remain the hindquarters of this system where anyone deserves to win a medal or play a conga drum. Cuban doctors want to have dignity in our country and be respected by the people: the dignity must begin at home.

We are wandering the world to show how worthy we feel as Cuban doctors and when we return to Cuba we blush for what we are because no one appreciates what we do. We are miserable in our own country and cherubs in the world; we are gods to the rest of the world and fallen angels in our beautiful country. We don’t relax with the tourists, but we heal them; we don’t disseminate culture but we dictate sentences that save lives; we don’t break world records but be bring down percentages and this is worth a lot and more like life because that’s what we do every day.

We don’t have to wait for the Olympics, nor an annual contest nor an opportune invitation to emigrate to reach the summit. No, our competition is the daily doing of our duty; all the craftsmanship that leaves our hands is so that the unfortunate enjoy it; all the energy we expel in our daily cravings is for others to be happy. We provide happiness, records, songs and poems, and that is also art. Why not reward us if our fruits are sweeter than those of others.

We can do both things: be valued abroad and valued in our country. We can bring life to those abroad and guarantee the lives of our own. We want and demand attention to provide our people with the same efficiency that is provided abroad; we need our work to be valued and to be paid with the same fairness that it is valued and paid in those foreign missions.

How can we live in penury and on the contrary give opulent attention to our patients? It is not a question of conscience and trivial ideas. It’s a question of dialectical logic. It’s not possible that our own drown while we are saving others; it is not possible that we are incapable of supporting our families with our labor and paradoxically have an obligation to support, sometimes with old pitchforks, other families.

We are doctors as well as humans, as well as Cubans and the needs of many should not be of everyone. Indeed, we live more in spirit the more souls we save but the gift of wisdom surrenders before the privation. We cannot feed our children with slices of morality nor dress them in clothing of the finest rejoicing.

Our president said on July 26 this year that he knew that doctors earn very little but so it is with everyone. Excuse me, Mr. President, but with all due respect, we are not everyone. We are the specialty of the house with regards to the inequality you refer to. In the center of the crisis we can be an exception to the rule and earn a fairer salary and have working conditions that are not only fairer but dignified, corresponding the humanitarian and immeasurable work that we do.

We know of the magnanimous investments being made to support the Cuban health system and its institutions but to not invest in the human being, the doctor, is like forcing a homeless man to live in a palace. Cuba has an army of coveted and unbeatable white coats but already the white is turning yellow: purity… changes color.

Eider Valdés

24 September 2012

Posted to Citizen Zero: November 1 2012