Free Operations


Havana Maternity Hospital.  Photo: Caridad
Havana Maternity Hospital. Photo: Caridad

“Around the world, the pharmaceutical industry is a profit-making business.  In Cuba, however, it is responsible for the health and well-being of people, sparing no expense,” said a television reporter, as hyper-sanitized lab technicians sorted piles of pills in the background.

But since when is people’s health ensured with pills?

Are people healthier the more pills they take and at the lowest price?

I’m fed up with hearing about the huge sacrifices that Daddy State has to make for us – we ungrateful children.  I’m sick and tired of being made to feel like someone useless who doesn’t produce anything.  On the other hand, I would receive free medicines if I become ill (from cancer, AIDS, hypertension or any strange syndrome) or if I have an accident.

That’s just great!  If I am left semi-paraplegic, I’ll get therapy and inexpensive medicine…

I’m not going to digress into the health of the Public Health Ministry; I’m not interested in stirring up a bunch of futile chatter for and against what I say.

There is something logical regarding health care.

What is it?  The curing of illnesses?  The prevention of illnesses?

Does Daddy State find it less expensive to bet on subsidized medicines than the true health for us ungrateful children?

The fundamental elements for physical health are daily exercise (with appropriate breathing) and the consumption of foods appropriate to each person (since what’s good for one is not always good for the other).  Good quality water is also necessary, and I wouldn’t find certain hygienic products bad.

Mental health is another thing, though it’s less palpable and hardly mentioned.  What would a person be without good mental health?

I don’t believe that, once deteriorated, one can recover it through prescription drugs.

Everybody agrees that an intact jar is preferable to one repaired with the best crazy glue on the market.

How can you have good health if you don’t have the income to buy what’s needed for three meals a day?

Is it healthy if no one says to the thousands of mothers who buy instant soft-drinks for their children -at great sacrifice- that the sodium cyclamate in these concoctions is a chemical substance that robs vitamins and minerals from their children’s’ bodies?

How can you maintain good health in the midst of buildings that are about to fall down, apartments that we can’t repair due to a lack of all types of resources, or with balconies that collapse piece by piece onto the sidewalk?

And what about the sewer water that runs down most streets, in front of food stands, schools, workplaces or wherever it wants?

Is it healthy to have so many cars functioning due only to jerry-rigging by their drivers, with these machines spewing dark clouds of smoke?

And no one is responsible for enforcing laws against environmental noise pollution.

How can you have good health if to go to work, home or any place, it’s necessary to suffer the delays of public transportation, abuse by its workers (who think they’re the owners) or the arrogance and aggressiveness of those who surround us?

I’m well aware that stress and pollution are worldwide concerns, but lying is also a world concern – an eternal one of all economic systems.  That’s why we’ve not ceased complaining about it over centuries and centuries.

I don’t believe I’m beating a dead horse on the issue of shortages in my country, or how everything converges to prevent us from truly enjoying good health.  Everyone talks about this, though some people exaggerate, and others stop short or compare us to Haiti, Sierra Leon or any country that hardly knows what a revolution is.

Some people are believers, while others remain disbelievers or indifferent – with their bellies full and their hands recently washed clean.

After all, what’s important is that everybody continues to believe that Cuban health care is the best on the planet…. in the solar system.

People must think it’s worth any sacrifice to have a “low cost” pill, since that allows us to project the idyll of good health care.

But this is at the sacrifice of truth… and of health.

A year ago, in one of those political meetings that we have to attend at our jobs, a senior manager spoke about our trust -we ungrateful children- in Daddy State.  He placed an emphasis on health care:

“You know that if you have a headache, it’s likely you won’t find an aspirin at the pharmacy.  But if we have to perform surgery to cut off your head to alleviate the pain, we’ll do it for free, you know this. That’s how our health system works.”

Yeah, unfortunately it does work like that – though it seems grotesque.

2 thoughts on “Free Operations

  • Really enjoyed your article as someone who has family in a Caribbean country where some go to Cuba for treatment because of it’s excellent doctors. However, I totally agree that low cost treatment does not necessarily tackle the issues of preventative healthcare and health education or access to the things needed to for a good quality of life. Your candidness (as mentioned by the other reader) about the living conditions for some people reveal the dichotomy of a country’s responsibility/ability to provide and it’s ability to deny /ignore the needs of its people–whether it be poor or developing or rich and powerful state. Thanks.
    –Just wondered what you meant with regards to Haiti and not knowing what a revolution is. I’m not Haitian but from what I understand, Haiti’s independence was quite revolutionary. The slaves revolted and Haiti became the first independent post colonial nation in the western hemisphere. It’s demise and political failings of course are another story.

  • Wow . . . This is really deep, Yordanka. Perhaps deeper than you suspect. It’s gonna take some thought by everyone for meaningful comments to be made, but one thing is for sure: Your article is precisely the kind of candid, intelligent expression from the heart of the people that is necessary for the frank and open reform debate that has been called for by the PCC.

    The discussion of a better healthcare system is very much on the national agenda in the US right now. Your article provides much food for thought up here, as well.

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