By Alfredo Fernandez
To visit a hospital is quite simple for anyone in Cuba; you only have to be feeling a little bad during the hours that the smaller polyclinics aren’t open or have some relative admitted in one of its wards, to cite only a couple examples.
But if the facility in which you’re receiving health care is the General Calixto García Iñiguez Hospital in Havana, you’ll discover situations worthy of everything from astonishment to indignation.
This hospital is renowned not only for the professionalism of its medical personnel, but also for the deterioration of some of its facilities, which can deliver the same surrealistic impact as Dali himself. Though this is common in many Cubans hospitals, I never cease to find myself shaken.
The Otorhinolaryngology ward in this hospital, where my sister has been admitted while waiting for spine surgery, is simply Dantean.
The bathrooms are unisex, not because of progress made by CENESEX (the Cuban Center for Sexual Education), but as a result of the general physical decline that this institution has experienced. In the few toilets that function, men and women carry out their needs around the clock.
Trash and scraps of food accumulating for days at the entrance of the bathroom of my sister’s ward reminded me of the trash cans for collecting food for pigs that are set up in certain Cuban workplace dining rooms.
Cohabitation by gender extends to the patients’ rooms, where it’s not unusual for, say, the patient in bed 21 (a recently operated on woman) to request the patient in bed 22 (a man waiting for an operation) to kindly leave for a moment “because she needs to pee in the bedpan or the nurse has to inject her in private place.”
If we add to this description the sign located over the admissions office prohibiting the use of cameras, we are faced with the recognition by the Cuban government of a situation of abandonment, or at least one of extreme delay in the completion of repairs to this health facility, formerly the “flag ship” of all Cuban hospitals.
All of this saddens me, and I hope it changes.