Work Ethic and Incentive in Today’s Cuba

Jorge Milanes

Clínica estomatológica en Candelaria, provincia de Artemisa. (foto 14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – My work colleague came in today somewhat nervous, jittery and with half her face swollen.

She’d been complaining about her wisdom tooth causing her a lot of pain for days, and she couldn’t bear it any longer, so she decided to go to the dentist today to get it taken out.

She clearly had a very rough time.

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to go through, not even my daughter’s birth was that hard,” she tells me with some difficulty, hardly able to speak.

“The dentist was working on the root canal from 8 AM until 11 AM, about to break my jawbone. She gave me three injections of anaesthesia during that time, and when I thought she had finally finished, I moved her hands and told her that I couldn’t take it anymore, that if she didn’t know how to take it out, it was better for a maxillofacial surgeon to take a look,” she said.

“It was iatrogenesis, which is damage caused by a medical action, in this case the incorrect procedure when trying to extract your wisdom tooth,” I told her.

“She should have given you an X-ray first to see what the situation was with the root of the wisdom tooth. Plus, these kinds of extractions are almost always done by maxillofacial surgeons. Legally speaking, this should be taken to trial.”

“I know, but I don’t want to make things hard because she’s a friend of mine,” she replies.

Soon after our conversation, a doubt popped into my head. “Did you take a gift for the dentist?”

“Yes, because otherwise it would have taken me weeks to sort this out. Taking something was the only way to be seen immediately,” she tells me.

I didn’t want to know what the gift was, but I think this is where the answer to the situation lies.

The dentist’s interest in keeping what my colleague took her meant that she didn’t have an objective and clear view of the problem. The dentist decided to take on the risk of extracting the wisdom tooth and threw due process out of the window.

This isn’t general practice, but the tough economic situation in the country means that some people taint work ethic, and don’t comply with protocol. They not only risk losing their licenses, they also put many people’s lives at risk. Although the patient’s haste to treat the pain also clouds their judgement.

We need to be aware of the possible consequences when we give gifts to be seen. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to give doctors an incentive, but the balance between work ethic and incentive needs to be there until proper treatment is completed.


Jorge Milanes

Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.

One thought on “Work Ethic and Incentive in Today’s Cuba

  • Having had the privilege of doing a study many years ago of motivation, I know that recognition is the major motivator. Therein lies the conundrum of communism, for its purpose is to deny individuality in favor of creating a mass, thus removing recognition.
    Understandably, Cubans tend to think of remuneration as the main motivator. But those who have the privilege of living in the free world, know that if a good employee has his/her pay doubled tomorrow, there will be little difference in output or results because he/she is already doing their best. That is no reason for not making any change.
    But in Cuba, the regime has carefully calculated just how little to pay people to enable them to exist.
    Under the communist system the “workers” themselves only do sufficient to retain their income, Increases in productivity are of no interest for there is no recognition.
    Foreign investors have been prosecuted for “corruption” and having had their businesses confiscated, been jailed. So what is “corruption”? In Cuba it is paying employees more than the miserable sum paid by the state to which the employer has contracted with the state. The “employer” pays the state say the equivalent of $9,000 US per year and the state pays the “employee” US $25 per month. The “employer” gives extra money to better employees or Christmas presents – thus breaking the contract by “corruption”. The thought of just rewards and giving to each person according to their contribution towards the business has no place in Marxist/ Leninist practice.

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