What’s it Like Today in Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital?

There is nothing, but everything is solved with money under the table

“Everyone was waiting in the hospital corridor without any separation, even a lady full of blisters, as if she had monkeypox.” (14ymedio)

The hospital, one of the oldest in the capital, is rather the epitome of the situation of hospitals in Cuba.

By Juan Diego Rodríguez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – Today the General Calixto García University Hospital in Havana is far from being the center of prestige that it once was. Even less does it honor the propaganda that, on official pages, sells its services as “high quality.”

The hospital, one of the oldest in the capital, is rather the epitome of the situation of hospitals in Cuba. While the Government promotes its powerful Medical Services Marketer as a desperate tool to attract tourism, which still is avoiding the Island, hospital centers and doctors’ offices for Cubans are sinking into squalor, corruption and unhealthiness.

Sandra remembers the week she spent at the Calixto García with her mother, Luisa, as a nightmare. Both resisted going to the doctor, like so many other Cubans, until the woman, about seventy years old, began to run out of breath, and the chest pain she suffered became unbearable.

They took it for granted that they would have to travel by taxi and not by ambulance, given the fuel shortage. What outraged both, as soon as they entered, was that there were not even stretchers. “I had to look for a stretcher and move it throughout the hospital,” Sandra tells 14ymedio. The shortage of personnel, precisely, is something widespread in health services due, above all, to the unstoppable migration.

The wait to go to the consultation was not in a room, but in the middle of the corridor, where the smell of disinfectant was overshadowed by the bad smells and urine coming from the bathrooms. “My nose is very sensitive,” says Sandra, “and that was unbearable.”

Right there, they observed a whole parade of patients, many of them with severe dengue fever, which this season has ravaged the Island. “Everyone was waiting there, without any separation, even a  lady full of blisters, as if she had monkeypox,” the young woman continues. “Without any privacy or anything like it, on a stretcher in the middle of the hallway, they pumped the stomach of a woman who had overdosed with Diazepam. The woman said she wanted to leave all this shit. What can I say, not everyone is strong.”

The worst, however, was yet to come. Luisa, diagnosed with pneumonia, spent the night alone in the hospital. Her daughter, when she went to visit her the next day, observed that her arm was swollen. “It’s very common, they told me, that the needle comes out of the vein and the serum accumulates under the skin,” she says. “The problem is that the nurse told me there were no more needles anywhere and they couldn’t change it.”

Sandra soon knew that “no side” was defeated with a little will… and money under the table. The young woman first approached the supervisor and the deputy director of the hospital. “They swore that they couldn’t change it, that I had to put up with it.” When she turned around, already resigned, an employee of the center, who witnessed the scene, approached her and said: “I can solve that for you, tell me what bed she’s in, wait for me there, I’m going to bring it to you.” Sandra gave her 200 pesos, and another 200 to the nurse who, in collusion with the assistant, gave Luisa the new  needle for the drip line.

“They also offered me Rocephin [the antibiotic specifically prescribed for her mother] at 250 pesos per vial, and if I needed a person to stay with my relative, they would also solve it for me,” Sandra explains.

And she adds: “With all that, they tell you any amount, they lie constantly. One day they didn’t give my mother the antibiotic and told her some story. In the morning, in another shift of nurses, I complained, and one said: ’Yes, they gave her the Rocephin, because here in the book it’s recorded’.”

Sandra can’t explain “how a simple hospital employee has the needles, medicines, everything, and yet, the bosses assured me that there was nothing in the hospital. Everything is pure corruption; Cuban hospitals have become a horror.”

As if that were not enough, one morning, several patients’ mobile phones were stolen. “In the same room, in 24 hours, there were three similar robberies,” says Sandra. “If it wasn’t an employee, it was someone disguised as an employee.”

In the midst of the sufferings of their relatives, people were forced to go to an Etecsa (State telecommunications company) office, with the identity card of the patients and a medical certificate stating that they were hospitalized, so that the state-owned company could cancel the phone number and allow them to take out a new line.

Sandra is telling all this, she says, “so that people have an idea of what someone who has a sick relative in this country has to go through. Going to a hospital has become a disaster.”

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

4 thoughts on “What’s it Like Today in Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital?

  • Jeff clearly has no personal experience of Cuban hospitals, Canadian hospital conditions are not comparable. The stench of urine does not pervade Canadian hospitals which have door handles, no broken windows and the luxury of cleanliness.

    But let me in defense of Cuban medical abilities, relate that if tested at the International Clinica Cira Garcia for Covid, found positive, transferred by ambulance to the Clinica Camilo Cienfuegos for isolation, the room will be spotlessly clean, have TV with access to US and British programmes, the washroom will similarly be spotless with hot shower and toilet paper. The sheets and bed will also be spotless and three good meals will be delivered by gowned masked staff per day. Tests for Covid will take place on day 5 and every second day thereafter until the magic word “negative” appears with discharge. Medical care will be excellent throughout! But at time of discharge, there will be an account to be paid in hard currency of some $1,600 US ($2,300 Canadian). Cuban medical services can be excellent for those who have the advantages of capitalism – I know! But I am not a Cuban! What would happen to any of “Los Gordos” infected, to where would they be sent?

  • Since we are trashing our respective healthcare systems, let me chime in. The US system has many defects and that’s when you have great insurance coverage. I can’t imagine how the system works for the uninsured. But I also have experience with a family member who had surgery at Calixto Garcia. I commented about that experience in a post here at HT a few years ago. We went into the experience as prepared as possible. We brought our own towels and sheets from the US. They were colored linens so there would be no mistaking them for hospital property and we still had several towels and sheets stolen from our loved ones bedside. We paid Doctors and nurses on staff extra on the side to make sure our family member received the necessary attention. We visited several times a day, bringing food and drinks. I can relate to the smell of urine in the hallways and busted light fixtures. We cleaned bathrooms with our own cleaning supplies. Etcetera, etcetera, etc. Every time some Castro sycophant leaves a comment here about “free” healthcare in Cuba, I just scream. It is hardly free and if what you get for free is no better than what Cuba has, I will gladly pay.

  • I would put up with whatever our system puts us through here in Canada, the long ER waits etc.. because our hospitals do NOT run out of basic supplies.. and we will eventually get good care. I could never complain again about shortage of medicines, guess what, you get adult tylenol pills or syrup and divide it into child doses with pharmacist help .. the kid is not going to die.. when i was young there were no such things there in my rural town either , i survived. Ukraines are facing a cold dark winter, Cubans facing heat and dark days , unable to cook meals , get enough food…..
    God has blessed us with so much…. even those FLoridians who lost their seaside mansions and built in pools, believe me , they have choices… Cubans and Ukraines do not.
    Save your prayers for those who live in conditions such as Cubans do….

  • It’s the same in Canada minus the stolen cell phones.

    In Quebec, you wait 14 hours in emergency with other coughing coronavirus on you. After they call you in you get a gurney and the leave you in the corridor for another 14 hours.

    We also are running short on simple medicines like acetaminophen and children’s cough syrup.

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