PBS’s Ray Suarez can’t believe the truth about Cuba’s healthcare
posted at 12:39 pm on December 30, 2010 by Fausta Wertz
Ray Suarez is having a snit about Mary O’Grady’s article,
Apparently, Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s critique of Ray Suarez’ PBS piece on Castro’s health care system stung him not only a bit, but a lot. In a rambling and disjointed rebuttal on the PBS News Hour website, Suarez attempted to defend his Castro propaganda-laden report by citing instances where opposing views were presented, but the rebuttal quickly degenerated into a personal attack on O’Grady.
Suarez claims that
Cuba has, for a country of its income, very high life expectancy. Cuba has, for a country of its income, low infant mortality. Cuba has, for a country of its income, low rates of infectious disease.
Yet Suarez forgets to mention that the statistics for any of these are provided by the Cuban government, the same government that has refused access to any independent outside organization to examine the statistics, the criteria for the data, or how the statistics are gathered. Suarez can’t seem to realize that any statistics put out by a totalitarian regime in a closed society are to be questioned.
Additionally, Suarez ignored the medical apartheid system itself.
Suarez says that “Ms. O’Grady has not gotten that memo,” which brings up the cables.
The U.S. cable is not an in-depth assessment of Cuba’s health system. Rather, it’s a string of anecdotes gathered by the FSHP from Cubans such as “manicurists, masseuses, hair stylists, chauffeurs, musicians, artists, yoga teachers, tailors, as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, physicians, and foreign medical students.”
At one OB-Gyn hospital, the dispatch reported, the staff “used a primitive manual vacuum to aspirate” the womb of a Cuban woman who had a miscarriage “without any anesthesia or pain medicine. She was offered no . . . follow up appointments.”
A 6-year old boy with bone cancer could only be visited at a hospital by his parents for “limited hours,” the cable added.
Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation get “little in the way of symptom or side-effects care . . . that is critically important in being able to continue treatments, let alone provide comfort to an already emotionally distraught victim,” the dispatch noted.
“Cancer patients are not provided with, nor can they find locally, simple medications such as Aspirin, Tylenol, skin lotions, vitamins, etc.,” it added.
HIV-positive Cubans have only one facility, the Instituto Pedro Kouri in Havana, that can provide specialty care and medications, the cable noted. Because of transportation problems and costs, some patients from the provinces may be seen only once per year.
Kouri institute patients can wait months for an appointment, “but can often move ahead in line by offering a gift,” the dispatch added. “We are told five Cuban convertible pesos (approximately USD 5.40) can get one an x-ray.”
Although the practice was reportedly discontinued, some HIV-positive patients had the letters “SIDA” (AIDS) stamped on their national ID cards, making it hard for them to find good jobs or pursue university studies, according to the cable.
The cable acknowledged that medical institutions reserved for Cuba’s ruling elites and foreigners who pay in hard currencies “are hygienically qualified, and have a wide array of diagnostic equipment with a full complement of laboratories, well-stocked pharmacies, and private patient suites with cable television and bathrooms.”
Hospitals and clinics used by average Cubans don’t come close, the dispatch added, providing details on the FSHP’s visits to four Havana hospitals:
At the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, part of which is reserved for foreign patients and was featured in the Michael Moore documentary Sicko, a “gift” of about $22 to the hospital administrator helps average Cubans obtain better treatment there. The exterior of the Ramon Gonzalez Coro OB-Gyn hospital was “dilapidated and crumbling” and its Newborn Intensive Care Unit was “using a very old infant `Bird’ respirator/ventilator — the model used in the U.S. in the 1970s.”
During a visit to the Calixto Garcia Hospital, which serves only Cubans, the U.S. nurse “was struck by the shabbiness of the facility . . .and the lack of everything (medical supplies, privacy, professional care staff). To the FSHP it was reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world.”
At the Salvador Allende Hospital, the emergency room appeared “very orderly, clean and organized.” But the rest of the facility was “in shambles” and guards by the entrance “smelled of alcohol.”
Of course Suarez will probably dismiss this as “anecdotal”. Since he was not free to visit any clinics/hospitals/facilities on this own while in Cuba, he ought, however, to spend some time looking at first-hand evidence and eyewitness accounts by people who are in Cuba.
Cross-posted at Fausta’s blog.