Wednesday, March 31, 2004

T&T: Tissue transplantees Cuba bound?

GOVERNMENT could soon be sending citizens who require tissue transplants to Cuba for life saving treatment, according to Health Minister John Rahael. He said a catalyst for this initiative was 20-year-old Keston Williams who died at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) on March 11 from complications related to Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. Friends of Williams said passage of the Human Tissue Transplant Bill could have allowed him to get the medical treatment he desperately needed.
This notion, no doubt, is rooted in the idea that Cuba has an excellent health care system. In actual fact, Cuba's doctors are farmed out to foreign countries to serve as revenue slaves for the government. Cubans at home are serviced by medical students, and citizens are often unable to find the prescribed drugs to take. While cost is a factor prohibiting sending tissue transplants to the U.S., the thing is that going to Cuba might kill more than it might cure.

MadBull wants proof from reliable news sources. Well, that means that excludes GRANMA, the official voice of Castro's communist dictatorship; so I'll rely on CubaNet accounts which I've blogged before: See here, here, here, here, and here.

Are there reports out there that Cuba has the best healthcare system in the world? Yes, indeed. However, from the standpoint of the average Cuban who cannot access them, those plaudits are meaningless.
Today, however, because of Cuba's political and economic situation, the health care system has deteriorated. Many doctors and other health care professionals have left the country. Only the wealthier Cubans can afford to buy imported medicines, most of which are available in pharmacies that accept only American dollars.
There is a two-tiered system of health services in hospitals. One caters to Cubans, the other to tourists. These services are not affected by the embargo. Cuba attracts more than 5,000 foreigners every year who come for special medical treatment such as laser surgery and organ transplants for illnesses such as cancer and chronic neurological disorders. Foreigners also come to bathe in the mineral hot springs (aguas termales) at Cuba's spas, such as those at Topes de Collantes and San Vincente.
Thus, the Cuban healthcare system is a revenue generator for Castro.

We may repeat as often as we wish the "Cuba has the best health care in the world" meme. As long as Cuba is exporting health care professionals as a foreign exchange generator, then this statistic, for the average Cuban, can no longer be true: "ratio of doctors to Cubans is one doctor per 200 Cubans (The Cuban Experience, 1998)." And, as reports via CubaNet have indicated, it is not true. For, what Cuba is doing is producing medical doctors for export or for the in-country care of foreigners who may be looking to access highly specialized that is not affordable by the average Cuban.

Moreover, the whole system is suspect because the determinant of availability of healthcare in Cuba is this: which will generate more revenue? Sending doctors to other countries to work, or having medical facilities for foreigners? It is entirely an economic, rather than a medical construct for Castro, and only he knows the answer. Thus, even foreigners who go to Cuba in the expectation of receiving superb medical care may not necessarily be getting the most bang for their bucks. For, to Castro, the needs of these foreigners are trumped, just like the health care need of the average Cuban, by the communist dictator's desire for foreign revenue.

When the average Cuban can have access to the health care, the same way the average Caribbean man does, then I'll be willing to revisit my views about Castor's Cuba and its medical system. As for news sources on Cuba, this stance of the writers of this blog is well known. CaribPundit is written from a conservative, and perhaps, Republican, point of view. For me, no communist source is reliable because communists have no idea of the nature of truth. If communist propaganda is used, it will be tongue in cheek and with intent to poke fun.

The final comment on the Cuban health care system is this:
"No way health care is free in Cuba," said Félix Valenzuela, after having paid 15.40 dollars (323 pesos at the current exchange rate) for a medicine to combat his wife’s parasite infestation.

Valenzuela said he had to pay for the medicine in dollars because it was not available in the pharmacy that sells in Cuban money. He added that it had taken him some time to get the money together, since he lives on a 140-peso-a-month pension. He said, "Health care may be free for the leaders, but for average Cubans, it is very expensive."
I'll take the word of the average Cuban every time.

Thanks, MadBull, for asking for the links.


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