A First-Hand Experience with Cuba’s Healthcare System

By Fernando Ravsberg


HAVANA TIMES — Our blog, Cartas desde Cuba, has a new member: Lucia, our webmaster’s daughter, born yesterday in Havana’s Gonzalez Coro Hospital. There, we were able to see Cuba’s public health system at work, and understand why infant mortality rates are so low in the country.

Throughout the past 9 months, the new mother had around 2 weekly consultations, from checkups to ultrasounds (one of them 3D), through HIV, RH and genetic blood tests.

On D-Day, we ran into the first surprise on arriving at the hospital and being informed that no outside sheets or towels may be brought into the ward, that only properly sterilized materials may be used. A sign that things may be improving in terms of resources, I thought.

What came as no surprise was the attitude shown by doctors. From the moment our friend arrived, she was treated by a well-oiled machine, passing through the emergency ward to the pre-partum area, where the specialists accompanied her till labor.

At that moment, the doctor who had been following the pregnancy appeared to deliver the baby. An hour later, we were told Lucia had been born without any complications and that friends and relatives could go in to see her for a few moments.

For the 3 days the mother and baby stayed at the hospital, they were subjected to numberless tests to ensure both were in perfect condition to be discharged.

If we were to try and nitpick here, I feel they should develop a better system to keep relatives informed, as, under the current system, one only gets updates every 12 hours. As such, one can spend half a day knowing nothing about the pregnant person.

It is well worth mentioning our friend is Cuban and she received the same care all other 14 Cuban mothers (of different skin colors and from different social classes) received that day. We thank the nurses and doctors and welcome Lucia into this world.

26 thoughts on “A First-Hand Experience with Cuba’s Healthcare System

  • Your immature comment is irrelevant to the discussion. If you can prove Castros’ revolution is not a failure, do so with the facts. Personal attacks reflect your lack of good character and scholarship.

  • You’re an abysmal failure.

  • Fair enough. I apologize for any misunderstanding. The Translating Cuba site has a wide spectrum of views, and they are journalists writing from within Cuba. I do not agree with all their articles; however, it is the best site thus far that I have encountered. Havana Times may have its merits, but I believe it could definitely be more objective as this healthcare article illustrates.

  • Well that is a huge cop out from rational argument. I read all the contributions on this site and whatever their views I wouldn’t once say that anyone was lying or a government agent of any kind. Life isn’t one big conspiracy.

  • What are you talking about? ….Comrade, huh? You obviously have not read my posts. My suggestion that you read the comments portion of havantimes en Español is so you can see how real Cubans, in this case mostly not from Cuba where access to this site is spotty, ridicule the Castro regime. And my suggestion to visit a hospital in Matanzas was to ilistrate the deplorable conditions of these hospital. ….all lost in translation I believe. So Im not sure what lies you are exposing precisely.

  • Thank you for your recommendations. My reading is not limited to just this one site but I think its quite unfair to label havanatimes.org as deceitful or less than legitimate. Whatever the site editor, Circles Robinson’s, personal political beliefs, he does a pretty good job of publishes stories that span the political spectrum. It’s readers also reflect that diversity, providing for lively debate and discussions. One of the problems with some of the sites you mention is that they are political echo chambers with everyone sharing the same views. There is room in the Cuba debate for a wide spectrum of views, even those that are obvious propaganda. Those lend themselves to the most lively of debates, which is probably what I enjoy the most.

  • I was born in Cuba and lived there. You need to read my prior comments. You can save your conceit for the gullible and uneducated. Good luck with your studies, comrade.

  • Yes, Canadians and other foreigners have been propping up the genocidal Castro regime for 56 years. You have nothing to be proud of. You are complicit in their crimes against humanity. You should be ashamed.

  • Good luck with your studies comrade. Thank-you for exposing what and who you really are. Your lies will not work on me. I know the truth firsthand.

  • Yes Dani, that’s what I’m saying!

  • Babette, mia amore….I’m Cuban and have lived the reality that is Cuba. And yes I also enjoy reading havanatimes.org en Español. I would suggest you read the comments portion in Spanish to get a good idea of how Cubans really feel. A real eye opener. Perhaps you should also visit Cuba, see what a real hospital looks like….say in matanzas.

  • I recommend that you also read articles on the Translating Cuba web site. This site is composed of Cuban journalists writing directly from Cuba. They actually live there and can give you the real scoop. Also read articles on the PanAm Post website. At this site, you will also find writers from all over Latin America writing about Cuba. The best way to combat mendacious propaganda is to read from legitimate, reputable sources and get the firsthand experiences from dissidents and exiles. Regards.

  • You do not know the history of Cuba. Cuba was an advanced nation before Castro’s revolution. Before 1959, the infant mortality rate was already low as compared with other nations in the world. Today, the so-called “wonderfully” low mortality rates are due to the ubiquitous abortions that are performed on a regular basis. Cuba’s abortion rates are one of the highest in the world. Guess what? Their doctors are also practicing infanticide. Children born with perceived defects are murdered soon after birth. The Castro regime forcibly sends doctors to other nations and withholds equitable pay. These doctors are virtual slaves to the regime. Why do you think so many of them seek asylum in the host country? It is called human trafficking and slave labor. Additionally, so many of these doctors are sent abroad that, currently, there is an extreme shortage of doctors in Cuba. Most of the doctors in Cuba today are badly trained and lack the tools to adequately provide care. Did you know that there is a full-blown epidemic of cholera and dengue throughout Cuba? The Castro regime does not report this, but Cubans from the island have been writing about the deplorable state of healthcare for years. The Castro regime’s healthcare system is a fraud. Their good healthcare is reserved for the tourists and Castro elites. The average Cuban citizen is not receiving good care. They are neglected and rotting away in dilapidated filthy hospitals, clinics and psychiatric wards. The hospitals and clinics for the average Cuban do not have medical instruments, bed sheets, lightbulbs, band-aids, toilet paper, medicines or basic medical supplies. Why do you think exiles send billions of dollars in remittances a year to Cuba? Why do you think exiles send medicines and other supplies to relatives on the island?

    Wake up! You are living in a fantasy. You have swallowed the Castro regime’s pernicious lies and are making excuses for their depravity. The Castro regime does not care about its citizens. They only care about solidifying their repressive murderous power. Their fallacious healthcare claims are propaganda, and you have been duped.

    The Castro regime has been engaged in genocide for the past 56 years. Good healthcare?? No. GENOCIDE.

  • Yes, I was born in Cuba and have lived in Cuba. I know exactly what I am talking about. The Castro regime has destroyed a once vibrant, prosperous and advanced nation. You, sir, are the one spewing more of Castro’s repugnant, fallacious propaganda. You should be ashamed. Graphic, verbal and historical documentation of the past 56 years debunk your outright, uneducated lies. Castro’s revolution is an abysmal failure. Good luck with your studies, comrade.

  • Are you saying the author is lying or has been duped by the Castros. I don’t remember you complaining about his article on corruption and mismanagement in the clothing sector. Is that also “suspect”? He is describing his experiences and you should respect that.

  • As a proud Canadian, I take offense to Irina’s tirade. No system is perfect. However, it is the only one we have. If you are unhappy with the medical system in Canada, I have three options for you for your next pregnancy: 1. Give birth to your child in Cuba; 2 Give birth at your home or 3. Return to your motherland. It seems that you are not happy with the system here. Instead of bad-mouthing and complaining about the system, work to improve it – if you dare. Malcontents!

  • Lol …obviously you don’t know any Cubans

  • My dear, have you ever visited Cuba? You sound very hostile to the Revolution: You donot possess one clue about that which you speak. I have been there; I have been attended to and the nurses are so friendly and humane even though they did not speak my language. Girl, you really hate the Castro’s for bring a health care system which could be compared to any heath care system in the world. And, do you know what? It is accessible to all and sundry, regardless of col our, class or creed. An American won a trip to Russia. On his return to America he was interviewed about his trip. He stated that in his travels in Russia he never encountered a homeless person on the streets. He was labelled a communist

  • Amen, Hallelujah! Thanks for the confession, It is good for the repenting soul. You see, Cuba believes in the dignity of the human being more than it believes in the dollar. In America, it is the dollar which comes first. In America do they give a minute by minute commentary to the relatives? Cuba delivers first class medical attention at less than half the cost in America! Long live the Cuban Revolution!!!

  • Just when I thought you were making progress you let me down! Oh well. I ask you, why not live in Cuba full time, from your description it sounds fantastic! Perhapse because you live better in the US ? Oh look, another boatload of Cunans escaping your free health care! …hoes the burger barge coming along?

  • No Rich. Horse manure represents my experience and observations in Cuba. And my use of an Avatar does not make my statement any less true. Congratulations, another post in which you did not mention Batista. You’re making progress!

  • Using my real name, not a fictitious one, I believe Mr. Ravberg’s article is a fair, balanced, and accurate portrayal of the birth in Cuba of the little girl Lucia. “Horse manure” more accurately depicts your bias, I believe.

  • It is no surprise that this excellent article by the respected Fernando Ravsberg would enrage the anti-Castro zealots in the U. S., especially those who have benefited from or basked in the glow of the lucrative Castro Industry since 1959. Except for Batistiano-like propagandists, Revolutionary Cuba’s remarkable advances in health care is well documented by the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. {Yes, even the World Bank recently praised Cuba for the exceptional percentage of its wealth that is devoted to health and education.} The U. S., as we speak, has medical personnel studying Cuba’s unique practice of having multiple preventative techniques to reduce health problems, such as ubiquitous polyclinics available 24 hours a day and staffed with caring, capable people. U. S. studies have already determined that Cuba’s lower infant-mortality rate is due to preventative care, such as that depicted by Mr. Ravsberg. Cuba also has the world’s largest medical school and provides free 6-year scholarships to hundreds of poor foreign students, including very appreciative Americans. {106 U. S. students are now in that program}. The most respected Cancer Institute in the state of New York is among the medical facilities begging the U. S. government to permit them to use drugs developed by Cuban doctors/scientists and currently proven successful in other countries for such dreaded diseases as diabetes and cancer. Cuba has spent money providing free eye care for thousands of poor people from other countries under a program called Operation Miracle, which has, free of charge, restored or improved eyesight to many people who otherwise were without medical care. Those who try to control the Cuban narrative in the U. S. cannot deny such things so they try to dismiss them or weigh them down with propaganda. I suppose that’s why everyday Americans are the only people on the planet without the freedom to travel to Cuba, because they might be able to see and judge things for themselves as opposed to being told what to think. I have been to Cuba legally to research. I hired a Cuban named Jose Flores as my driver. He detoured one day to go by his home and pick up his 4-year-daughter to take her to a polyclinic to treat a slight nick on her hand. After she was returned home, I smiled at Jose and said, “All that just for some iodine and a band-aid?” He said, “I know, but the clinics are so convenient it helps my wife from having to do every little thing, and it’s being careful in case of infection even from a little scrape.” That exchange lingers with me and Mr. Ravsberg’s article reminded me of it. Cuba is not perfect; no nation is. But it is a better island since the ouster of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. As a democracy-lover, I believe it demeans the U. S. for anti-Cuban propagandists in the U. S. to disparage even positive aspects about the island while insisting that only their viewpoints should be allowed to see the light of day while they promote the fallacy that everything about the U. S. policy towards Cuba sheds a good light on democracy. Mr. Ravsberg’s article was accurate and positive, so no wonder it stirs the wrath of the Castro Industry in the U. S.

  • Everyone can express their own opinion, however, I found nothing suspicious in this article. I have not given birth to a child in Cuba, but two out of my three children were born in Russia. And my third child was born in Canada. Hospitals in Cuba have lots of resemblances with hospitals in the my own country, so are the approaches when it’s comes to a health care. And I am personally experienced health care system in Cuba on different occasions. As a woman, I can say that I would never wish to go through pregnancy and childbirth in Canada. Regular checkups and different tests are important for piece of mind of a woman, who is carrying a child. (at least, that was my expectations). I was “too healthy” for Canadian health care system, I am guessing that is why they didn’t want to spend money on “necessary” tests, and received only one ultrasound throughout pregnancy. I was “granted” to see an obstetrician when I was more than 7 month into the pregnancy. And on my first visit, that doctor sent me home (without even taken my blood pressure) with words: “you looks very healthy to me, nothing to worry about.” The experience of given birth wasn’t the greatest either, the doctor (not my obstetrician) was not happy that his sleep was interrupted by some woman in labor. After all, my Canadian husband was very discouraged by his country health care system, that he was believing in so much before. Yes, the rooms and hospitals are much more polished, beds are more comfortable and sheets are nicer. But does it really matters? Because myself, I prefer the skill and the knowledge of my doctor, than the comfort of surrounding. I was kicked out of the hospital with my newborn child the next day: we both were too healthy to keep us there and pediatrician never even looked at my child, never mind to do any tests. In summary, I find this article very believable, because I had experienced everything what described in this article myself, but not in “well developed country”. In my opinion, this is not “one more piece of propaganda”, but the reality, which is beyond understanding for those “ignorant, gullible masses” that are just might happen to be on other side of the fence. (Note: I was receiving services in the biggest provincial hospital in Canada)

  • While the story above is obviously horse manure, I find HavanaTimes.org does a good job of publishing a broad spectrum of stories, representing a wide range of views. All, or most, are stories and observations about Cuban written by Cubans. Some stories are more polished than others. Some, like the story above, are more obviously “suspect” Than others, but for the most part they are offset by other stories that are not so flattering. The totality of all the stories that appear on this site, based on experiences of the Cuban contributors, tend to paint the Cuban regime in a less than rosy light.

  • Those having true firsthand experience about Cuba’s healthcare system know that it is atrocious. It is well-documented by Cubans and foreign diplomatic staff who go to these hospitals and clinics incognito that conditions are subpar. The only ones who get good healthcare in Cuba are the Castro elites and the tourists. Everyone else is subjected to substandard healthcare in crumbling, filthy facilities. Havana Times is not known to be unbiased in its reporting and will fabricate falsehoods to deceive the ignorant, gullible masses. Beware! This article is fallacious and one more piece of propaganda to add to Castro’s rubbish.

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