Cuban cold snap kills 26 patients in mental hospital
posted at 12:15 pm on January 16, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Like my friend Bruce McQuain at QandO, I’m wondering whether Michael Moore will add this to a later edition of the Sicko DVD. Twenty-six patients in a Cuban mental hospital died from hypothermia during an unusually cold winter in Havana:
Twenty-six patients at Cuba’s largest hospital for the mentally ill died this week during a cold snap, the government said Friday.
Human rights leaders cited negligence and a lack of resources as factors in the deaths, and the Health Ministry launched an investigation that it said could lead to criminal proceedings.
A Health Ministry communique read on state television blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in Boyeros,” the neighborhood where Havana’s Psychiatric Hospital is located.
It said most of the deaths were from natural causes such as old age, respiratory infections and complications from chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular problems.
The statement came in response to reports from the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights that at least 24 mental patients died of hypothermia this week, and that the hospital did not do enough to protect them from the cold because of problems such as faulty windows.
My goodness, it’s a good thing that Michael Moore decided to lecture Americans on the superiority of the Cuban health-care system in his feature-length diatribe, isn’t it? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be demanding a government takeover of our own health-care system to achieve parity with Fidel’s paradise.
I live in Minnesota, where it gets considerably colder than Havana for about six months out of the year. Our hospitals manage to keep patients warm, clean, and safe. When was the last time anyone heard of patients dying in an American hospital of hypothermia caused by their stay in the facility? According to my recollection, that would be, uh … never. Where were the staff at this Cuban paragon of medical care? When it got cold, no one apparently thought to close windows, or give out more sheets and blankets, or bring in more heaters … for hours.
What does it take to die of hypothermia? Let me offer you a personal anecdote. When we first moved to Minnesota, the First Mate was still an insulin-dependent diabetic, and one day she had big problems with her insulin dose. While I was at work, she tried relieving the dogs out of the back door of the condo we were renting at the time, and passed out in the snow on a 30-degree day. It took over two hours for someone to find her (after I frantically called the rental office when she wouldn’t answer the phone, whose maintenance man ended up saving her life). She had a core body temperature below 80 degrees, and another 15 minutes outside would have been fatal. And she was seriously ill before passing out in the snow that day as it was.
If 26 people in a mental hospital died of hypothermia, that means the staff at that facility engaged in malicious neglect. And I wonder whether those people were truly mentally ill, or whether they were political prisoners, because even the least-engaged staffer at any kind of medical facility would have had hours to correct that kind of situation before anyone died.
Addendum: It’s also worth pointing out that a mass of people dying of hypothermia in the tropics doesn’t exactly bolster the claims of global-warming activists.
Addendum II: Why is the First Mate no longer an insulin-dependent diabetic? She got a pancreas transplant, a procedure developed in the US and conducted by an American hospital, with complete success. Just sayin’.
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