Monday, June 26, 2006

Health Care in Cuba

A scathing report on the health care system in Cuba has been smuggled out of the country and published on a Norwegian website. The report was written by distinguished Dr. Hilda Molina, formerly of the Cuban National Assembly, and it describes a system of apartheid where foreign medical tourists receive quality care that is denied to Cubans.

Beginning in 1989, the entire Cuban health care system was directed to established mechanisms to turn the medical system into a profit-making enterprise for the government. Cuban government representatives traveled worldwide marketing "health tourism" to attract foreign currency. For motivation, a kickback system of payments was developed for foreign associates, recruited to steer patients to Cuba. Hospitals were urged to accept foreign patients with payments going to the government.

From Civita:
There are several significant flaws in this new Cuban medical system. Foreign patients are routinely inadequately or falsely informed about their medical conditions to increase their medical bills or to hide the fact that Cuba often advertises medical services it is unable to provide. Patients are often forced to pay intermediaries fees in excess of the 10 to 20 percent benchmark established by the Cuban government. There is also a deficiency of medical attention for both foreign patients and Cubans.

The lack of adequate professional qualifications, the absence of medical ethics, and the drive toward financial enrichment also characterize Cuba's medical system and often yield unfortunate results.

At present, all the medical institutions that government leaders believe are minimally equipped to treat foreign patients have been informed that the government will no longer provide financial support. Instead, they are expected to support themselves by selling their services.
A priority system was established to define who gets treated and how. The highest priority rests with foreigners, followed by government officials/military, athletes with good performance records, dancers, and lastly, ordinary Cuban citizens.

Even with high priority, though, foreigners may actually have their health jeopardized by the system. They are frequently pressured to have unnecessary treatments or operations, often by doctors without prerequisite qualifications. Foreign patients are also forced into paying for overpriced and frequently unnecessary Cuban-made pharmaceuticals, many of indeterminate, sometimes even hazardous, value.

Dr. Molina's moderately-long report can be seen at the link above. Not marred by hysteria or revenge, I believe the report is an honest assessment which belies intimate knowledge of Cuba, communism, and how the health care system has been turned into a fraudulent, albeit appealing, postcard designed specifically to attract foreigners and their currency.

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