Getting an Ultrasound in Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — The receptionist at the polyclinic kindly explained to me that the ultrasound request I’d brought had been filled out incorrectly, for, according to her, it wasn’t possible to examine the liver, gallbladder, bladder, kidneys and biliary tracts in a single ultrasound procedure.

I would have to go see my nephrologist (who sees patients every fifteen days) and ask her to fill out several ultrasound requests. Then, I would need to come back to the polyclinic and make different appointments for the different ultrasounds, which would be separated by roughly a month each.

All of this left me bewildered. The waiting time for these procedures would also be coupled with the bureaucratic delays involved in the transactions between polyclinics from different municipalities.

Luckily, our family is friends with a doctor who always helps us whenever we run into such problems. I don’t like to depend on these types of “contacts”, but, sometimes, one doesn’t have any other choice.

While waiting for the ultrasound, I read the note our doctor friend wrote: “Patient with nephrocolic of the right kidney….,” a string of technical jargon indicating the size and characteristics of the kidney stone.

There are about ten other patients waiting around me. Those who’ve gone in haven’t taken longer than ten minutes to come out. It’s a relatively quick procedure, so I don’t understand why one has to go through so much to get an appointment.

I know that most of the ultrasound machines at the polyclinics around the municipality are broken (in Alamar, there’s only one that works). I know this equipment is expensive and difficult to repair. I also know that Cuba has a much harder time getting its hands on this type of technology than other countries. Most importantly, I haven’t forgotten all medical attention is subsidized by the State.

I know all this, but, even so, I have to say things aren’t working as they should, that there’s too much red tape and that run-of-the-mill citizens still get too much of a run-around to get certain healthcare services.

I am not an economist or a doctor, so I don’t have a solution to this problem. I am merely a young man who, for the time being, has a friend who helps him in these situations. But what about those who don’t?

4 thoughts on “Getting an Ultrasound in Cuba

  • Cuba may be lucky since ultrasound is not risk-free. See the new bibliography of human in utero ultrasound studies by Jim West / harvoa

  • Those who do not have friends as doctors in Cuba need to make friends with one. I know for a fact that it is now common practice to bring a little gift of food or something eelse useful on each visit to a doctor for treatment or other services. Several doctors in Cuba havve told me this fact.

  • I am quite sure the ultrasound equipment in the hospitals reserved for tourists and the elite are in fine working condition. The regime advertises the high standard of services all over the place. Strange how the “embargo” seems to strike so selectively, no?

  • Osmel is one of the many HT writers who is usually spot-on. Elio Legon notwithstanding. Two small nits to point out. First, ultrasound machines, as medical equipment goes, are only the simple end of the complexity scale. Second, they are sold worldwide, including Russia, China, and Venezuela, all BFFs of Cuba. There is no reason Cuba does not have enough of them except for the fact that Cuba is broke and can’t afford to buy more. That is a problem shared by all poor countries. Nothing special about Cuba’s situation there.

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