Reponsibility is Not Remunerated / Jeovany J. Vega

The story circulated recently on the Intranet: a Cuban doctor, a recently graduated anesthesiologist, was sentenced to nothing less than eight years in prison for the sad death of an obstetric patient. I don’t know the anesthesiologist in questions and I’m not completely versed in the details of the case, but I remain a priori convinced of some truths about this case: she wasn’t absent from her post, she didn’t stop trying the procedure until the last minute, she didn’t try to get out of accepting responsibility, she did not fail through laziness or irresponsibility.

Nor was it about some marginal profiting in the corner from under the table goods, nor was she a functionary collecting the huge benefits from the management circuits, customs, nor hoteliers, nor one of those who emerges from those who hold the upper hand in this country. This young woman gained nothing from this work shift, nothing to alleviate the burden of her home, nothing to benefit her family, no food to put in the mouths of her children, if she has any.

It is a universal rule that the salary received by an individual should be proportional to the effort demanded for their training and, especially, to the amount of legal responsibility assumed when exercising a particular function.

But in this little island that principle is definitely broken: general practitioners, particularly doctors, living as we do amid chaotic and absurd dynamics, working for $25.00 USD a month for authorities who do not blush when they sell a child’s toy for about $80.00 CUC (roughly $80.00 USD). Meanwhile, a simple employee of that same store, just to name one example, takes home five or ten times our monthly salary when he lines his pocket from tips, from fiddling with the prices, and from access to all the rebates and bargains; while this doctor and I earn a little more than a dollar after a day of work, an incredible shift facing influenza, dehydrating diarrhea — including cholera of course, or the risk of meningococcal encephalitis; and this would be our entire pay for assuming the greatest responsibility for the least expected mistake — not necessarily out of neglect or incompetence, but from the logical physical and mental exhaustion, or, and why not, for understandable human error — which can put you behind bars and for what we don’t even remotely perceive that we deserve.

All this sounds like mockery and would be laughable if it were not so serious. The doctor’s previous merits counted for nothing, nor did her desire to finish this most difficult of specializations, nor the five years she was on a medical mission in Venezuela making the best of a bad situation.

Although I respect the pain of the family and do not question their right to channel such a loss to the last resort, as they have suffered pain of unfathomable magnitudes, it would be very healthy, in situations like this, to redirect their focus to those who have rigged the game such that none of us, not this doctor nor the rest of our colleagues, are guaranteed a way to survive in our country with a minimum of tranquility.

by Jeovany Jiménez Vega

10 September 2013