Cuba’s Medical Referral Slips

Nonardo Perea

The military hospital in Marianao, Havana. Foto: Jimmy Roque Martínez
The military hospital in Marianao, Havana. Foto: Jimmy Roque Martínez

HAVANA TIMES — I had an accident a few days ago: I spilt a pot full of boiling bean stew over my left leg.

I immediately headed over to the nearest hospital, the military clinic. I walked several kilometers in pain and, when I arrived at the emergency ward, an elderly nurse immediately and attentively treated me. She went to look for some gauze and distilled water to calm the pain.

Shortly afterwards, they explained to me I was going to be transferred to the Calixto Garcia Hospital in Vedado, because the Military Hospital had no burns unit.

That was the first thing that caught my attention. How is it possible a military hospital has no burns unit?

After informing me of this, they told me I could wait for an ambulance to take me to the hospital, in view of my state. My boyfriend, who was there with me, asked how long this would take, and a doctor explained to us it could take about four hours. We decided to leave in a cab to make the whole process faster.

Before leaving, I had to wait a half hour to get an official referral. It was drawn up by a young woman, apparently a student, who had to redo the referral three times because she made mistakes each time. All the while, I endured the pain, anxious to make it the other hospital, which is quite far from where I live.

Once at the Calixto Garcia, I showed the referral to the doctor on shift and she didn’t even look at it (meaning that the whole wait at the other hospital had been entirely pointless). They treated me and I was again given a referral to go to another hospital, the Fajardo this time, a facility quite far from my place. They were to begin curing the burn at the said hospital.

Two days later, early in the morning, I arrived at the Fajardo in pain and with my referral slip. While waiting in the fairly long line of people, one of the patients told me that referral was useless, that I didn’t need it, that I had only to stand in line and that people were seen on arrival. I had to fill out a kind of form where I had to jot down my name, age, place of residence and the place I’d burnt myself, just that.

I went away feeling twice as much pain. The first cure was very painful, for they scratched off the skin till drawing blood.

The hardest thing was to walk out of there on my own two feet. As I walked, I could only think about how useless those referral slips are, and about the people, many of them elderly, who have to travel far with burns on their bodies, devoid of means, to then return home. No one gives you a slip so you can catch a cab home for free. What for, when everyone knows these slips of paper are useless anyway?

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.

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One thought on “Cuba’s Medical Referral Slips

  • Firstly may I sympathise with you in your pain.
    By providing a referral they have record that they took action. It may not be necessary for the patient, but is for the bureaucracy.

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