Elio Delgado Legón
HAVANA TIMES — Boasting health statistics above all other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (and even the United States), Cuba’s healthcare system has achieved world recognition and been endorsed by the World and Pan-American Health Organizations and the United Nations.
That said, a number of issues continue to cause dissatisfaction among the population, and the Ministry of Public Health has undertaken a process aimed at improving and updating the sector.
As is well known, Cuba’s healthcare system is universal, free and comprehensive. In addition to offering medical care to all citizens living in cities or the countryside, without distinction, it is also moved by internationalist tenets, as expressed by Article 50 of the Constitution and Public Health Law 41.
Since 2010, as part of the process aimed at updating Cuba’s economic model and in compliance with the guidelines issued at the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, Cuba’s public health system has been undergoing changes with a view to improving medical services and bettering work conditions for health personnel, as well as bringing more comfort to patients and their families and making the system more efficient and sustainable.
One of the tasks undertaken as part of this process was the restructuring and repair of family neighborhood clinics, so that these may again offer the medical services they were designed for. In many places, these clinics were not operating as planned – that is to say, doctors were not residing in the doctor’s office and seeing patients when they needed attention.
In 2013 alone, 3,168 health facilities underwent some kind of repairs or maintenance work nationwide.
According to information recently made public by high public health officials, the changes currently being implemented are simply part of the process begun in 2010, and efforts continue to be devoted to the restructuring of services, making more efficient use of human and technological resources and to the country’s mutual assistance network, responsible for referring the patient to the care facility where his problem can be solved without the intervention of any other factor.
The main results of these efforts that were made public are:
– The country’s 451 polyclinics and their health services continue to be operational and concerted efforts are being devoted to guaranteeing their proper functioning – suspending any service or having inoperative diagnostic equipment must become something out of the ordinary.
– Cuba’s 11,400 doctor’s offices, with an average doctor/population average of 1,040 residents, will continue to offer health coverage around the country. “Now, we have to make sure they work well, that is, that they can address most of the health problems the population has. We have to have both the doctor and the nurse working there and we have to continue improving their working conditions, so that the people become convinced that they can receive qualified and appropriate medical attention at that primary level of healthcare.”
– Specialists (clinical doctors, pediatricians, obstetricians, psychologists and other) are being called on to become more involved in consultations and asked to monitor all care, educational, administrative and research processes.
– A total of 733 doctors and 230 nurses have had their residences repaired, such that they can again serve their community from home where they are more aware of the local health problems.
Significant investments are also being destined to repairing hospitals and their equipment, in order to meet the needs of the population that must resort to that level of health care.
New geriatric care facilities have been opened to meet the needs of the 18.3 percent of the population that is now elderly. The country has 126 homes for the elderly, with a total of 9,590 beds. Authorities are working to open new homes that will add 710 beds to current capacities.
In terms of rehabilitation services, two million more patient sessions took place than in 2013 than the previous year, for a total of 15 million in the year.
I have tried to offer readers a panoramic view of the work being carried out within Cuba’s healthcare system to improve services at home and continue gaining in prestige abroad, where Cuban doctors work in more than 60 countries, without affecting the services back home.
As I said at the beginning, a certain degree of dissatisfaction may still exist, but this will gradually disappear as we make more progress in our efforts to update and perfect the country’s health system.