By Osmel Almaguer
The worst case I’ve seen of the degradation of a medical practice is that of Dr. Conrado, the last doctor that attended me prior to Dr. Raquel. Conrado is the dietitian at the polyclinic where I went. Though Cuba is full of polyclinics you can normally only be seen by the one in your locality (except in emergency situations). This is stipulated by law.
However, thanks to Gloria – another doctor who owes my mother some favors — Conrado agreed to see me. But for this, I first had to get in an enormous and slowly moving line outside his office. There were no seats there, so people, me included, crouched down or sat on the floor due to the constant weakness experienced by diabetics.
It isn’t that a waiting room doesn’t exist, but it’s shared by all of the doctor’s offices on the second floor and is “by chance” far from Conrado’s office. Because of this, it’s preferable to put up with the lack of seating than to lose your place in line.
Counting the people in line, there weren’t in fact that many; it was just that each patient took a long time after he closed the door behind them. Occasionally the door would open and Conrado would come out for another patient. Later, he would re-emerge alone, call the next one, and everything was repeated.
When the door opened – like someone who doesn’t mean to but does – I could see several people inside his office, talking to each other or with the doctor. I later found out that it was his daughter and some friends of hers. I don’t think that’s right.
From time to time another doctor would go in with a patient for Conrado to take at look at, to the detriment of those in line. Since unity of interests generally unites people (especially if they’re good), and since we Cubans are very open to talking with anyone at any time or place, the people in line would chat and tell stories for the time to pass more quickly.
It would be a lie to say that time always goes by at the same speed because it’s measurable; it’s our perception that distorts its passing.