Inside the Cuban Hospitals That Castro Doesn’t Want Tourists to See
Island’s “World-Class” Health Care Is a Myth Wrapped in Propaganda
By the time I climbed the steps of the emergency room entrance in San Miguel, Havana, I could already tell that the supposed first-class health care provided in Cuba was a myth. Hospitals in the island’s capital are literally falling apart.
Friends told me to dress “like a Cuban” and not to speak while inside, since my Argentinean accent would give me away the moment I said hello. A member of the opposition Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) party came along to guide me in my journey to the core of communist-style medicine.
We entered the hospital at 10 p.m. on an ordinary Saturday night in September. Three out of the hospital’s four stories were closed. Only the ER was operational.
“We have been waiting for an ambulance for four hours,” yelled a man wearing green scrubs, who seemed to be a doctor. I sat on one of the four plastic chairs in the waiting area. My friend kept still and gestured to let me know I should remain silent and listen to the patients and their relatives.
Twenty minutes went by, and still no ambulance. The man in green scrubs remained at his mother’s side on an improvised stretcher, trying not to lose his patience. They looked like characters from the play Waiting for Godot.
The scarce equipment available gave the building the appearance of a makeshift medical camp, rather than a hospital in the nation’s capital.
I stood up and continued my tour. Two nurses stared at us but didn’t say a word as we entered an intensive-care unit, where the facility’s air-conditioned area began.
My guide — a taxi driver for tourists who don’t get to see this part of town — told me that all the doctors working the night shift are still in school. Indeed, none of them appeared to be older than 25.
The only working bathroom in the entire hospital had only one toilet. The door didn’t close, so you had to go with people outside watching. Toilet paper was nowhere to be found, and the floor was far from clean.
I saw biological waste discarded in a regular trash can. The beds had no linen, and the only equipment around was the bag of IV fluids hanging above them. All doctor’s offices had handwritten signs on the doors, and at least four patients waited outside each room. The average wait time for each was around three hours.
Orderlies were also nowhere to be seen. A young man had to push his mother on a stretcher until he reached the line of those waiting for an ambulance.
Continue reading HERE.