The Decline of the Polyclinic That Was a Benchmark of Cuban Medicine

The polyclinic, which serves an area where a little more than 18,000 people live, has the character of a university. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 12 May 2021 — The Plaza de la Revolución Teaching Polyclinic in Havana, which claims to be a center of national reference since it was founded in 1974, is sinking these days between poor hygienic conditions and the chronic shortage of medical supplies and medicines.

The three-story building, located on Ermita Street, a few meters from the Granma newspaper and the Ministry of the Armed Forces, underwent repairs about two and a half years ago, but the botched jobs soon became evident. In the absence of specific pipes for the installation of the hydraulic system, they used insulating pipes of electricity glued with PVC, which causes water leaks in the walls and ceilings that have forced the closure of offices, consultations, the children’s gym and, now, on numerous occasions, the adult facility which is in danger of collapse.

In addition, toilets and sinks are frequently clogged, according to reports from workers at the center, thus generating outbreaks of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, carriers of the dengue and Zika viruses.

“It is difficult for us to deal directly with patients, because when it comes to washing our hands we have to go to a facility down below, and it is precisely there where the clogging is accentuated and therefore where there are more mosquitoes,” an employee of the physiotherapy area tells 14ymedio.

As if this were not enough, the deterioration of the equipment is evident and medical supplies such as cotton and lidocaine are lacking. “Alcohol, gauze and syringes are in short supply,” says another healthcare worker. “We understand the situation in the country, but this is not the way to work,” he laments. “Sometimes patients take us to task for it and I really do not think we are to blame, but we are the ones who stand up. Add to that the working conditions have become difficult. Many cases with Covid come to the respiratory area that we improvised for the issue of the pandemic and the situation with water is not resolved. “

Last March, they removed the X-ray equipment, and if a patient needs an X-ray, they have to be referred to another location.

In the polyclinic, which provides primary health care services and is also one of the campaign centers for the clinical trials of the candidate vaccine against coronavirus, Soberana 02, reagents for the laboratory are also lacking.

For this reason, sources from the center report, they are only collecting samples in a limited way. When a patient urgently needs a blood test, they send them to another hospital.

“A few days ago I went to be given an aerosol, because I am asthmatic, and they had to change the mouthpiece twice because it did not nebulize,” complains Ernesto, a regular patient, who claims to have witnessed a nurse demanding from a doctor for prescribing medications that were not in the inventory. “I only have tramadol for pain, he told the doctor.”

The polyclinic, which serves a neighborhood where a little more than 18,000 people live, has a university character. In its consultation and of care areas, classes are taught to Medical and Nursing students. The health authorities consider it as a “provincial and national benchmark,” but complaints about the center have accumulated in recent years.

The crisis in the hospitals of Havana goes back a long time. Before the arrival of Covid-19 on the island, there was already a shortage of materials in centers such as Calixto García, where it was usual to find the emergency room crowded with patients, but without gloves, serums or needles.

The Joaquín Albarrán Clinical Surgical Hospital was another of those that revealed their lack of supply and some patients even told 14ymedio that they brought their own materials. “I brought everything, various sizes of disposable syringes, alcohol and the sterile cottons that my daughter sent me from Miami,” said a woman with a leg injury.

At the beginning of 2019, a reader of this newspaper wrote a letter to denounce the unfortunate state of the Abel Santamaría Hospital, in Pinar del Río, where a foreign friend on vacation on the island was poorly treated and was only able to find the best care at the Cimeq (Research Center Medico Quirúrgircas), which can not be accessed by ordinary Cubans. However, even at this exclusive hospital, considered the jewel in the Cuban crown, the roof collapsed in 2015.


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