More on Cuban healthcare

From Bella Thomas’s essay at Prospect Magazine. Doesn’t exactly jive with the comments from Adrien and Subcomandante Marcos on my May 27th post on Michael Moore’s forthcoming movie “Sicko.”

Healthcare and education are supposed to be the redeeming graces of the regime, but this is questionable. There are a large number of doctors, but, according to most Cubans I know, many have left the country and the health system is in a ragged state—apart from those hospitals reserved for foreigners—and people often have to pay a bribe to get treated. Michael Moore, the American film director, who has recently been praising the system should take note of the real life stories beneath the statistics. I went into a couple of hospitals for locals on my latest visit. In the first, my friend told me not to say a word in case my accent was noticed, as foreigners are not allowed in these places. I was appalled by the hygiene and amazed at the antiquity of the building and some of the equipment. I was told that the vast majority of Cuban hospitals, apart from two in Havana, were built before the revolution. Which revolution, I wondered; this one seemed to date from the 1900s.

On another occasion, I saw a man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck hurrying along the boulevard of Vedado, in west Havana. We struck up a conversation. He was on his way to the hospital around the corner. I asked him if he would take me there. He was charming and intelligent, and had that ease of communication that many Cubans possess: he wasn’t at all taken aback by an unknown woman in dark glasses asking to accompany him to work. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t be too shocked; the hospital was being “refurbished.” The building certainly was in a state of filth and decrepitude. This was not a place one would want to be ill in.

[. . .]

We sat in [a certain dissident’s] kitchen and discussed the state of the prisons, which he described in some detail. He also spoke of the healthcare system and echoed the view that the propaganda about it has been absurdly successful. [. . .]

When I returned to London, I watched an edition of Newsnight in which the reporter claimed to be immensely impressed—after four days on the island—by the state of Cuban healthcare. I wondered where this man had been. Had he been to hospitals other than the ones his minders had taken him to? Why was it that Fidel Castro was treated by a Spanish doctor? “There’s all kinds of things we could learn from this place,” the reporter said, after his drive around Havana in an open-top 1950s Chevrolet, with a Cuban bolero playing in the background.End of the article

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