Health Care in Cuba

Warhol P.

Cuban doctors. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — In recent times, it has been common to hear the same kinds of phrases at bus stops or while waiting in whatever type of line; people will say things like: “Hell, seems like I’m going to have to move to Venezuela.”

Many people talk half-jokingly about the health care in our country, pointing out how its efficiency is suffering and how large numbers of doctors have taken assignments in other countries to provide their services.

Here in Cuba if you have any ailment, you first have to go to your family doctor for them to refer you to a specialist. The truth is — and I can speak from my own experience — going to see a family doctor can be a nightmare.

You arrive and get in line at around 7:00 a.m. and leave at 12:00 noon only with a referral. With that, you can get an appointment for fifteen days later, meaning that if you have something serious during those next two weeks, it can get even worse – even to the point of you kicking the bucket.

But things don’t stop there. After fifteen days you could find yourself getting to your appointment only to learn that the specialist has had some personal problem, so the nurse will calmly inform you that you’ll have to get another appointment…and wait another two weeks.

In cases like this — which are quite common — it’s best to take a deep breathe to try to prevent having a heart attack.

When these things happen, what I’ve come to realize is that we don’t have a place to turn to make our complaints, yet somehow we take care of the problems. But it’s clear that no one gives a damn.

Not long ago I was at the dentist. Every time I have to go there my hair stands on end because it never goes well for me. One time they cut my gum with a separator wheel, which looks like a knife. It took half an hour it to stop bleeding.

On another occasion I was supposed to get a tooth filled, but the doctor became distracted and accidently dropped the metal in my throat. I was spitting up for two hours even after I got home.

But the worst thing that happened was when I had to get a tooth pulled. I was sitting in the chair with my mouth wide open after a shot of anesthesia when the dentist got an unexpected visit and started talking about a bunch of crap.

I sat there for twenty minutes with my mouth hanging open and as you could have guessed I needed another shot of anesthesia. I ended up with my mouth stuck to one ear and unable to close one eye for three hours (something that talking about now seems funny, though there could have been other more serious consequences).

There is a litany of such stories that could be told about the poor quality of patient care.

Ok, I know that health care is expensive elsewhere. But please – I care about what’s happening in my country – not elsewhere!

What’s clear is that things in the Cuban health system aren’t functioning as they should. If you think I’m mistaken, get a doctor’s appointment and see for yourself.

However, if you want better service, don’t forget to bring your physician a snack.


2 thoughts on “Health Care in Cuba

  • Your experiences do not sound good and i know you say you do not care about other countries but in the uk to get a specialist appointment within 2 weeks of seeing your doctor would be amazing. We can wait months. An urgent appointment is in theory 2 weeks. In an emergency such as broken limbs or heart attack you will be seen in an emergency department “immediately” but may have several hours wait. Once seen the service is generally good but can vary enormously. For those fortunate enough to be able to use the private system, it is quite a different story.

  • En los ‘tostados unidos’ llevando un regalito no sirve para nada.

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