I wish I could be happy about the quick response by the Cuban government to the request for assistance from the World Health Organization and the UN general secretary in their efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, but I cannot.
I am all too aware of the deteriorating state of our hospitals, the lack of hygiene, the poor medical care — provided mainly by students rather than doctors — the poor nutrition provided to patients, the shortage of drugs and many other problems.
I am referring, of course, to the medical centers which serve the average Cuban, which are the majority, not to the specialized centers catering to foreigners, VIPs or people who can pay for their services in hard currency.
A similarly rapid response should be applied to the serious problems that have afflicted our health care system for years. We make the mistake of trying to solve the world’s problems without due regard for our own. This seems to have paid off in that at least it generates a lot of free propaganda.
However, no one who speaks or writes about the magnificent Cuban health system has had to have their illnesses or those of their loved ones treated here. Furthermore, many Cuban bigwigs prefer to seek treatment in other countries, even that of the enemy. There must be some reason for this.
At a press conference in Geneva, Cuba’s minister of public health took the opportunity to propagandize about the country’s achievements and to emphasize yet again how many medical personnel have provided and are now providing care in other countries.
He also talked about the thousands of overseas volunteer workers, though without mentioning how much Cuba charges in dollars for this service — currently one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange — or how doctors, nurses and other specialists are not being properly paid.
At one point during the press conference the minister stated that the Revolution did not wait for its health services to be developed before beginning to provide assistance to other peoples.
He neglected to mention that Cuba’s health services were already well-developed before 1959 and were among the best not only in the Caribbean but in all of Latin America. One need only look to official statistics from international organizations of the time to confirm this.
Given these questions, I am concerned that what we are dealing with here has more to do with propaganda than with solidarity.