A Medical Power Without Doctors

The Los Palacios, Pinar del Rio health center.

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – He spent the entire night sitting in the living room. The pain was more intense when he laid down, his blood pressure went up which made him even more afraid he’d have another heart attack. As the symptoms weren’t exactly the same as last time, he decided to look up information on Google.

He found similar experiences, but he felt the need to rule out heart failure with an ECG.

My mother was anxious, he was also restless even though he still had his stoic man pose. At 69 years old, my father still feels well, strong enough to look after his family like he has for so long.

We left at dawn for the polyclinic to see if we could get him an ECG. He smiled, now in a little less pain and picking up on my concern.

We got there early. The doctor on-call was in a consultation with a patient. He came out after a while. Time passed by as we watched the doctor walk along the corridor while his patient continued to sit. We breathed a sigh of relief when he came back. He gave the man a few documents and with his backpack on his back, he left the building without saying a word.

That’s when the bitterness began to settle in. Hours passed by and the clinic was still empty. The girls in front of us left. Other nurses arrived, they met in front of the empty place.

Some said that whether it was X doctor’s shift, others said that this doctor was doing pre-recruitment check-ups for young people when they go into Active Military Service. No director from the polyclinic could give us an explanation. I took the initiative to go up to the director’s office.

I was received by the secretary, I told her I needed to speak to the director. She said he was in a meeting but I could see the man alone in his office through the half-open door. I repeated my demand, she remained firm.

I gave in, with this inherent fear I have for conflict. She listened to me attentively. A few minutes later, the director had been informed of the situation and he said that Medical Assistance would take care of the matter.

We just had to wait. An hour later, with my legs hurting, my mood as low as the floor and a rage growing inside of me to levels I’m never known before, I decided to try my luck with a doctor on-call in therapy.

A nurse saw me. She could do very little for us, but she told me where the doctor was. Explaining my father’s situation to him, he told me to bring my father to him.

He had an ECG. All of the parameters were normal for a person with his condition. Anyhow, the doctor recommended he see a cardiologist.

The woman at reception was busy “hustling”. She was selling clothes on the down-low, while answering the phone and people who came for an appointment. We needed an appointment with the cardiologist urgently. We were penciled in for April 26th. A whole month of uncertainty.

When leaving, we saw twenty-something people in line waiting outside the therapy room. Many of them had been holding out with us since 8 AM. Hearing my father had been seen, they decided to try their luck.

That’s where we left them. We were a lot calmer; they were holding out for a little bit of consolation to relieve their pain.

Read more from the diary of Fabiana del Valle aquí.