Health Care in Cuba: More Questions than Answers

Veronica Fernandez

 Cuban doctors
Cuban doctors

At the end of last year, two of my molars began to hurt.  I immediately went to my dentist since we had already become friends over the time that she’s been treating me.  I’ve found that in addition to her being very professionally competent, she’s also an excellent person.

As soon as I got to the dental clinical in Cojimar (the neighborhood where I live, located to the east of Havana Bay), I began to look for her.  They told me that she hadn’t worked there for more than a month because her father was ill.  Since she’s the only daughter, she had to request an unpaid leave to be able to attend to him.

This news was terrible for me because now I had to face a problem more difficult than my intense molar pain.  I went to her house, where I found her in a state of such desperation that I felt bad for having come at such an inopportune moment.  Her father was in an advanced stage of dementia.

Nevertheless, after I explained the nature of my ailment to her, she recommended that I see a certain other dentist.  Like her, this was someone who had a lot of experience and who she was certain would take good care of me because this dentist too was very professional.  I left her house feeling bad about her situation but also about mine, because I then knew that I wasn’t going to be able to have her as my dentist for a long time.  In fact, I had no other alternative but to turn to this new dentist.

I got home stunned by my pain but also fearful about having another doctor put their hands in my mouth, despite the strong recommendation.  I don’t consider myself a cowardly person, but in these types of cases everyone is fearful of the unknown.

After going through a hellish night, because nothing relieved my pain, I left early in the morning in search of the new dentist.  She told me that I had to wait a little while but that she would attend to me.  After waiting more than two hours, I was still there waiting for them to call me.  Suddenly the door to the dentist’s office swung open and she appeared.  It seemed she had come out to get something to eat and when she saw me she only said that she had forgotten I was there.  My face was the reflection of my soul as I requested loudly that she see to me because I couldn’t take any more.

I finally sat down in the daunting dentist’s chair, and I can only say that no one could imagine what happened there.  The anesthesia I was given did absolutely nothing.  After going through that entire odyssey, the dentist explained to me that for more than a year they hadn’t been given the any types of supplies with which to work and that what they have is because they themselves negotiate with friends and other institutions that always contribute something to them.

She told me more.  She said that if she were to wait for them to give her the supplies she needed to care for the public, she’d never work.  Therefore, what she does is buy the materials herself, but she has to charge.  What she refuses to do is stand around doing nothing while seeing people coming to the clinic in need of care.

She told me that dentists in general have to do their work wherever they are needed; therefore it’s unethical to sit around in their offices doing nothing because they haven’t been given the needed supplies.  The whole group that works with her thinks the same, and it’s for that reason they’re able to treat patients.

While I was listening to what this dentist was telling me, several questions came to my mind: Is it possible for us to continue saying we’re a medical power?  Are the senior officials within the Ministry of Public Health unaware of what is happening?  How is it possible that the Cuban people cannot enjoy such a basic human health service?  If we don’t have the resources necessary in the country to give the appropriate attention to our people, why do we prioritize other countries?  If we don’t have indispensable dental materials for caring for the public, why do we continue graduating so many dentists every year?

In fact, this situation is shameful and terribly unfortunate because it discredits us in all aspects.  We cannot suggest that our basic health care system is the best if it’s not undergirded by a solid material foundation.

In our system, no medical doctor in Cuba should have to occupy themself with having to search for supplies to treat their patients.

What is the value of so many campaigns against dengue fever, cholera, or drug addiction if the first things that we have to get working as they should be are our own health facilities?

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Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.

Veronica Fernadez has 47 posts and counting. See all posts by Veronica Fernadez

One thought on “Health Care in Cuba: More Questions than Answers

  • Good morning,

    I’m looking for a good and reputable dentist clinic in Cuba, can you refer me someone?
    thank you.
    G Fares

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