Juan Juan Almeida, 29 December 2015 — More than six million dollars is the tab to cover a 2015 collapse caused by a riotous orgy of negligence. This is how they are describing the Cuban Ministry of Public Health’s most closely guarded secret. I will explain it but will try not to burden you with too much scientific jargon.
Accompanying photos (click here) show the construction of an ultramodern cyclotron unit within the confines of Havana’s Medical Center for Surgical Research (CIMEQ), which was intended for use in teaching and research.
The collapse of a floor, the result of egregious violations of building code regulations which cover such facilities, has led to losses that have yet to be disclosed by Cuban authorities. The losses include a unit for producing radionuclides for medical use, a radiopharmacy laboratory for producing and storing radiopharmaceuticals and various chemical synthesis modules.
A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that produces a short-lived radioisotope that, when added to glucose, is injected into the bloodstream and serves as a diagnostic imaging tool in nuclear medicine. Cancer cells rapidly absorb the substance and then emit radiation, which allows physicians to identify the cells’ location through the use a positron emission tomograph.
Once it became operational — something which of course will now not happen (at least not as urgently as initially planned) — Cuba had counted on being a world leader in the field of medical diagnosis through nuclear molecular imaging.
In other words, it is an advanced technology which makes it possible to safely and painlessly detect medical pathologies before the first symptoms of a given illness manifest themselves.
For example, it allows doctors to diagnose early-stage and late-stage cancers as well as residual and recurring tumors, and to qualify and quantify myocardial metabolism and blood flow while identifying living tissue in areas of infarction. It also enables physicians to diagnose Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, benign brain tumors as well as congenital and degenerative diseases, psychoses and/or mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
It is worth noting that this type of equipment and testing generates radioactivity. Accordingly, there are international accords designed to regulate building standards that guarantee the basic safety of such facilities and ensure protection against the dangers of radiation.
All facilities that process materials containing radionuclides are, quite logically, governed by a single body of regulations. Except in Cuba, on the grounds of CIMEQ, they were violated.
According to universally accepted building construction codes, such a specialized and sophisticated structure requires micron steel plates, reinforced concrete and other special materials. However, because of irresponsible decisions to cut costs and find innovative solutions — suggested and approved by members of a long chain of command that will never be punished — these materials were not used. Or they were used but not correctly, so the building collapsed.
All the commotion created by this unforeseen event attracted a lot of attention. Local authorities, negligent but cautious, displayed extreme indifference. They chose to play down the event, resorting to the trite saying “We lost a lot more during the war.” As part of their inspection, they tirelessly scrutinized all the cell phones of workers and eyewitnesses in order to — as they put it — prevent unauthorized photos from appearing in the media and on social networks.
They tirelessly scrutinized all the cell phones of workers and eyewitnesses in order to — as they put it — prevent unauthorized photos from appearing in the media and on social networks.