a doctor from Placetas responds to statements by Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero
If you’re going to look for the guilty parties, leave the healthcare personnel out of it. We’re literally laying down our lives in this
HAVANA TIMES – “Since the community transmission phase was declared, we are all on the red line, we’re soldiers in a nuclear war going into battle with slingshots.” Dr. Kenia Castellon works at the North Polyclinic of Placetas (Villa Clara Province) and knows first-hand the reality of Covid-19 patients on the Island. That’s why she exploded against the statements of Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, who appeared on national television last Tuesday blaming part of the responsibility for the increase in Covid cases on healthcare workers.
“This province is the same as the others with the lack of antigen tests, the lack of medicines, the same objective problems. But there are more complaints of subjective problems than objective. When you add up the lack of medicines, this, that and the other, they’re lower than the number of complaints and reports of abuse, neglect, lack of visits. That’s incredible,” said Marrero at a work meeting on the pandemic.
Although the prime minister’s statements referred to Cienfuegos, the outrage has spread among many healthcare workers from different parts of the island, aware that the situation of shortages is the same throughout the country.
“The shortage of medicines and other things, which he glossed over quickly without going into details, are what have our health personnel (to whom I belong) exhausted, terrified, and disappointed. Those other things, which he didn’t mention, include lack of adequate means of protection,” the doctor says reproachfully, revealing that healthcare workers are even forced to resort to the black market to purchase masks, since the ones provided are not sufficient for the long hours of work.
Castellon lists the endless shortages that hospitals face on a daily basis: oxygen canisters; diagnostic measures for critical patients, including antigen testing and PCR [polymerase chain reaction tests for Covid]; coffins; transportation, including hearses for the collection of the bodies of the deceased; even health professionals themselves, many of whom are absent due to infections.
Every one of these shortcomings is constantly being pointed out, both by the independent press through complaints from family members and health workers, and by provincial officials, who no longer hesitate to resort to the same media outlets to relate the desperate situation being experienced during this summer of the pandemic peak in Cuba.
Yet the Government, while recognizing the material shortages, diminishes their importance, unless they can blame them on the embargo, and prefers to highlight the violations of protocols, which, although they occur, are not the greatest of evils in a “battlefield medicine” context.
“When indiscipline starts, when established procedures are not complied with, we add an extra impact to that produced by the pandemic, and the consequences are worse then. We have to be ashamed of that. And here mistakes are being made, here there is indiscipline,” exclaimed a scandalized Marrero.
“Make a list of those responsible for the problem and I’m sure the doctors will be fine in the end,” says Castellon.
“It’s obvious he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Before so calmly criticizing doctors, put yourself in our shoes. View things from our perspective. We’re conditioned to save, alleviate, improve, and reduce suffering. If you’re going to look for the guilty parties, leave the healthcare personnel out of it. We’re literally laying down our lives in this, and we see that we’re now alone. First brave, then applauded, and now . . . guilty? It’s true that when the shipwreck happens, the rats are first to abandon ship.”
The message of Kenia Castellón, who also works at Villa Clara Medical Sciences University and was previously a specialist in caring for AIDs patients in Placetas, has been highly applauded by hundreds of beneficiaries who extol her bravery for answering the challenge from within the system and exposing herself to its possible consequences.
Others are also grateful that she is among those who dare to raise their voices. “There are many other things that the healthcare system needs: hospitals free of rodents, cockroaches, extreme dirt, plumbing problems and more, so that doctors and other health workers can care for a sick person. It’s necessary to have the required medicines, equipment, sutures, gloves, surgical supplies . . . But first you need dignity.”