Cuba: Cosmetic Surgery & Foul Play

Erasmo Calzadilla

The entrance of Calixto Garcia Hospital. The pyramid of evil has an apex.

HAVANA TIMES — There’s a rumor circulating, outside of the newspapers. The fact is that I heard several different versions the same day.

Someone on the bus was talking about how it was discovered that a doctor at the Calixto Garcia Hospital had a private clinic for cosmetic surgery, using materials taken from the hospital to treat his patients.

Shortly after, the drama touched me more close to home. A good friend who came here all the way from Pinar del Rio Province for an exam at the Workers Maternity Hospital had to go back home without being attended. It turned out that her doctor had been arrested along with 20 other people.

Since then, I started collecting more information and came up with the following: The director of Calixto Garcia Hospital (the ringleader of the “project,” apparently) had held the same position at the Workers Maternity Hospital and had been transferred to Calixto Garcia due to his outstanding performance, which explains why most of the doctors involved were from Workers Maternity.

They would operate in those same hospitals, at night, and move the patients by ambulance to houses transformed into clinics (requiring an entire system involving nurses, orderlies and ambulance drivers).

Their specialty was cosmetic surgery, including implants, but also cesarean sections. One of them told me that they even had a business for selling organs.

So that was my version, if you have another one please share it.

Someone suggested that I use this post to demand the government provide information about the case, but I won’t fall into that trap. Who can guarantee that the official version will be more credible than the rumor? It will only be the official rumor.

When they to decide to release it, they might tell the story in specific detail, with names and surnames of (almost) all those involved, the number of years each was sentenced to and so on, but the matter would be closed shut, right there.

What a whitewash!

An official report would never address how corrupt the whole structure must be for something like that to ever happen.

This corruption took place under the direction of a senior administrator. Though he managed public assets he was only accountable to superiors, therefore this wasn’t even about some rogue operator. The system of service provision is in itself corrupt.

It’s also corrupted because the health care personnel (like almost everyone who works for the government here) earns a pittance that isn’t enough to survive on, and this situation is what forces them to commit crimes.

In other words, the official rumor (concurring with the police investigation) would be mere cosmetic surgery itself.

Note 1: A similar case occurred recently at the Julio Trigo Hospital, but since hospitals on the outskirts of town tend to be poor anyway, the rumor didn’t spread so far. The director had a paladar (private restaurant) and was offering his patients’ food to his customers. They changed the manager but not the structure that allows functionaries to have public goods at their unchecked disposal.

Note 2: Hospital security prevented us from taking more photos from the street outside the premises of the Calixto Garcia Hospital. We obeyed, since the security officer looked eager to take action.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

11 thoughts on “Cuba: Cosmetic Surgery & Foul Play

  • July 22, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Hello from NYC, NY. This is another entry that I am going to save. What is the official charge when the Doctor referred to is arrested and what exactly is the punishment that is enacted?

  • July 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    First thing it is always worth putting these problems into perspective. According to the Corruption Perception Index Cuba is ranked better than most of the Caribbean and Central American countries. Secondly I think it is a bit too cynical to say that everyone tries “to maximize opportunities to serve personal interests”. In the UK there is very little corruption in general and almost non-existent in the National Health Service. Doctors wouldn’t dream of asking for bribes to supplement their state wages and patients wouldn’t expect to pay to jump waiting lists. I don’t claim to know all the reasons corruption happens – I think there are many. But again if you look at the countries that do best they are Scandinavian countries, Australia and New Zealand which are all developed countries with high levels of equality and strong welfare states.

  • July 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    In capitalism, it’s the same. What Cuba has to do is for each treatment establish a given time. Those who pay are treated more quickly. It’s like in anything, immense non-transparency. Why can’t they put it writing?
    Standard treatment in X days;
    Paid treatment in Y days.
    With the latter they will pay the costs for the former and of course in emergencies they are the same.

  • July 18, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Hey Moses I think that Grady has a personal interest in you; I had read closely her attacks over your comments for over a month now, perhaps you should provided her with your address and phone number to make her wishes to come true. Happy hunting!

  • July 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    It is well known that doctors do things better and more quickly if you pay them extra. It’s a shame that neither state nor the hospital receives any of this revenue. But there’s a large worldwide demand to perform surgeries for a good price.

  • July 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    It doesn’t seem that paying higher wages will prevent the corruption of officials. For example, you could say that paying salaries for life to former presidents would ensure they would have no need to steal from the public by virtue of having a secure future. It might seem that this would guarantee less corruption. But it’s false. We know that the more people have, the more they want to steal.

    The path is more likely through Note 1, a mechanism that allows direct audits by citizens. Something like a financial statement or a comptroller, but where citizens have direct access to data, from which they can bring charges before a court, etc. This takes into account the unblocking of legislative chambers, because otherwise one would have to wait until the legislation expires. In short, the mechanism is conceivable and achievable, but for this it requires removing the mighty from their comfortable seats.

  • July 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Circles, my comment under #3 above should have been a general comment, not a reply to Moses. Oops!

  • July 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Good article, Erasmo. Thanks.

    Marxian state monopoly socialism will always engender corruption.

  • July 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Corruption exists everywhere. What makes stories like this in Cuba so salacious is that Cuba portends to maintain an image of symbolic salaries and altruistic medical missions. The truth is that it is human nature to seek to maximize opportunities to serve personal interests whenever and whereever possible. No one is immune no matter how noble the slogans used on the billboards. Cuban doctors are just like everyone else. They are trying to put meat on the table for the family and maybe the occasional plasma TV as well.

  • July 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    See, Erasmo! When one door closes (that of professor of philosophy, or later, as high school teacher), another opens: that of investigative reporter! Even if you can’t get in the front door of the Calixto Garcia Hospital, I’m sure you could get even more info. from some of the disgruntled medical workers therein, either the ones who did not receive what they considered their fair share of the black market proceeds (most likely), or those who still maintain ethical standards (less likely). Alas! Up here most of the corporate media are as docile as is the officialist media in Cuba. Here, they serve their corporate masters. There, they serve the beaurocrats. One might say that, contrary to Dr. Pangloss, it is the WORST of all possible worlds!

  • July 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    i have heard of 24 hour rum made from rubbing alcohol found in hospital pharmacies. heard this anyone

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