By Pedro Pablo Morejon

Photo: cubaencuentro.com

HAVANA TIMES – The country has recently suffered a new surge in COVID-19 cases, and it’s fair to say that, in spite of its initial delay, the Government has implemented (as much as possible) the measures needed to stop this disease. If we are in this situation today, it’s because of how highly infectious this virus is.

Thinking about the possible consequences of a spike in infections, I have also got to thinking about Cuba’s health system.

There’s no doubt that our country has made breakthroughs in terms of public health. I could mention a few of them:

Universal access to free healthcare.

It is the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Mass vaccination campaigns managing to immunize the population against various diseases.

Manufacturing important medicines such as Heberprot to treat diabetic foot or the vaccine for preventing meningococcal disease.

Having thousands of health professionals with the ability to sell their services in different countries.

Reducing infant mortality rates to levels similar in the so-called First World.

I believe the above are the most important achievements made by the Cuban health system, in the past six decades. However, it presents a series of nuisances that make me think that this whole business about Cuban being a global medical power isn’t quite true.

Any sane person can tell you the poor state many healthcare facilities are in.

The only time I had to go under the knife was back in 2007. I was admitted into the Abel Santamaria Hospital, the most modern one in my province. I had to have keyhole surgery for kidney stones.

At the time, there were water shortages so hygiene conditions weren’t the best. Plus, only two operating rooms were working out of the five: The emergency operating room and one other. I remember that experts had to fight hard with the ward managers to operate their patients.

Recently, a friend had to go to another health center and told me about the bad state it was in.

I have a nurse friend who admitted that she stressed a lot of the time, having to go to another room just for a simple thermometer for a patient, with the additional headache that she can’t tell the patient that they don’t have X medicine or machine.

Medicine shortages in Cuba is another ill that has become chronic, and to make matters worse, cases of corruption have come to light of officials who divert medicines to the illicit market, which continues in spite of government efforts to tackle it, amidst this crisis.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are international drugstores where foreigners can buy any medicine they need in hard currency, the kind of medicines that can’t be found in regular drugstores for Cubans.

Such is the case with clinics and hospitals for foreigners which are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and all the necessary logistics to take care of foreigners, who just because they have a handful of dollars or euros are able to enjoy such privileges.

These two realities are a real apartheid.

I also have to mention the fact that the revolutionary elite (in Cuban slang: pinchos, mayimbes) go to the best clinics and hospitals, which I mentioned before or CIMEQ, which is a gem in the Cuban health system, and isn’t available for ordinary Cubans as we well know.

I must also say that any regular Cuban could die if they needed emergency medical assistance. There is a shortage of ambulances. In fact, the reality is that many people have died in such cases.

Last but not least, there is a shortage of medical specialists in Cuba today. Many can be found far away providing services for which they only receive a small sum, they are just cheap labor for filling the coffers of others. Although the current international crisis has seriously hurt this business.

All in all: There is no doubt that in terms of healthcare, Cuba is well above the average of other poor countries called “developing nations”. Especially with its universal and free healthcare, which in my opinion, is maybe the only social achievement of our Marxist State in the past six decades.

But beyond the propaganda, we can’t sidestep the fact that there are many dark holes in the Cuban health system, some of which are an insult to Cubans’ dignity.

So, is Cuba a medical power?

Definitely not.


Pedro Morejón

I am a man who fights for his goals, who assumes the consequences of his actions, who does not stop at obstacles. I could say that adversity has always been an inseparable companion, I have never had anything easy, but in some sense, it has benefited my character. I value what is in disuse, such as honesty, justice, honor. For a long time, I was tied to ideas and false paradigms that suffocated me, but little by little I managed to free myself and grow by myself. Today I am the one who dictates my morale, and I defend my freedom against wind and tide. I also build that freedom by writing, because being a writer defines me.

5 thoughts on “How a Regular Cuban Sees the “Medical Power”

  • I was recently in Cuba. My girlfriend got sick &we went to the hospital. I had to use the bathroom desperately. When i entered the bathroom, there was no toilet paper & quite frankly, it was disgusting. Toilet was black & no toilet seat. I went outside & defecated in the bushes. Thank god I brought some babywipes with me. I than went back inside where my girlfriend was given an injection in her buttocks in front of everyone-no privacy. I observe some of the more severely sick patients having to lay on a disgustingly filthy mattress waiting for care. That’s healthcare in Cuba-nasty.

  • Unlike Jay, I think the article is factual. It is factual to record that Cuba found a very substantial international market for health services, for which full charges are made in hard currency and is the major source of revenue (over $5 billion per annum) for the Cuban economy, exceeding that of tourism revenues.

    ELAM (the Latin American School of Medicine has trained over 20,000 doctors from 138 countries since 1998 and where lecturers are paid some $600 per year. The foreign are indoctrinated along with their Cuban fellow students, with compulsory classes in Marxism/Leninism, returning to their own countries to proselytize communism as an adjunct to medical services – doing so has proven effective.

    Jay takes exception to Pedro Morejon drawing valid comparison between the level of services and conditions provided for Cubans and those provided for foreign medical tourists – in particular at the Clinica Cira Garcia in Havana, with services confined to non-Cubans. For Jays information and as an example, a breast augmentation costs US $1, 248, compared with about $6,000 in the US. Medical tourism was given a boost by the well-known Argentinian football player Maradona, who was evetually “dried-out” of his heavy drug addiction in Cuba and is a devotee of the Castro regime, having a tattoo of ‘Che’ on one shoulder and another of Fidel on his left leg – both of which have stretched as he gained weight.

    Jay does not appear to comprehend that Pedro like his fellow Cubans is denied access to the levels of service provided to tourists. His complaints are fully justified, for it is Cubans who actually subsidize the services provided to tourists, receiving but a pittance as “salary” and as pointed out by Moses Patterson doing the equivalent of paying 95% taxes.

    I would agree with Jay if he held the Castro regime responsible for “cheap nonsense” and “failures”. To suggest that it is a consequence of the actions of Cubans like Pedro, who are victims of the system is ridiculous. He should thank Pedro for explaining the truth.

  • A useless article. Did you expect the foreigners who pay heavily to be denied treatment?its absurd. Tou should rather look for other ways of taking care of your people than the cheap nonsense you are propagating. Please style up and admit your failures

  • Pedro is spot on in his assessment of the Castro dictatorship’s public health system. I have commented for years here at HT about the pathetic state of affairs for Cubans seeking health care services in Cuba. By the way, as pathetic as these services may be, they are not free. Far from it. Given the fact that Cubans are taxed at more than 95%, they certainly pay for their health care system or the lack thereof. Compare what health care services that Cubans receive in terms of quality of service, availability of medicines, condition of facilities, etc. to what Canadians receive in Canada. Global medical power? Not even close.

  • As Pedro Morejon illustrates, Cubans are second-class citizens in their own country. Such are the benefits of the Castro regime.

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