There’s No Room, Wait Outside / Julio Cesar Alvarez

Gatehouse clinic in Central Havana. Photo courtesy of the author.

HAVANA, Cuba — Doctors working in the clinic located within the gatehouse of Central Havana Children’s Hospital refused medical treatment to a three-month-old infant named Alexander because his parents refused to comply with an internal policy of the hospital.

The policy allows only one parent to be present in an exam room. According to the doctor and nurse on duty the lack of space in the rooms is the reason for this policy.

According to Dr. Mario Lorenzo Medina, vice-director of health care at Central Havana Children’s Hospital, overcrowding in the consultation rooms was the reason why only one of the parents could be present.

“My doctors don’t have the room. They work in crowded conditions,” the director told the infant’s father.

For the parents — 25-year-old Yanela Durán Noa and Augusto César San Martín, an independent journalist — this policy violates the right of both parents to be present during an examination of their son.

The director of the hospital politely acknowledged this right but said that the policy would remain in effect until working conditions for his doctors improved. If parents refuse to comply, they are denied access to an exam room.

Dr. Giselle from the Coco and Rabí clinic in the 10th of October district is of the opinion that the rights of the parents trump any other consideration, especially a hypothetical lack of space.

The nurse who denied medical assistance. Photo courtesy of the author.

“The patient is always right. There is no significantly compelling reason to deny him care,” says Giselle.

For the father, not only was the directive an embarrassment, but so too was the treatment by the clinic’s medical and nursing staffs.

“They didn’t even ask why we brought the child in. The doctor and nurse refused to treat him. And when I asked for their names in order to file a complaint, they rudely told me that I was not the police,” says Augusto César San Martín.

Cuban doctors travel to inhospitable locations in order to provide medical care in very difficult conditions.

Photo: A dog sleeping in one of the clinic’s exam rooms.

While on these international “missions,” they work in open-air exam rooms under conditions of both sun and rain. They do this without objection and without a word of complaint. Even snakes pose no barrier to their work overseas.

The parents in this case consider denying them entry because of an alleged lack of space to be absurd since the policy is followed even when the rooms are empty.

Alejandro’s parents filed a complaint with the Ministry of Public Health almost two months ago. They have yet to receive a reply.

Cubanet, June 23, 2014, Julio Cesar Álvarez