Cuba's exemplary health care system not the same after dissolution of Soviet Union
Poor Caribbean nation had among the world's best health care systems
While poor and saddled with an outdated bureaucracy, Cuba's health care
system was among the very best in the entire world. Every Cuban
neighborhood had a doctor and clinic, and pharmaceuticals were
practically free and easy to obtain. However - with the falloff the
Soviet Union, and the recent economic crisis, Cuba is now struggling to
regain its high medical standards.
Say what you will about Cuba's corrupt political system -- their health care system sends their doctors to Africa and other developing nations for emergency care.
The Cuban health care system works by emphasizing primary and preventative healthcare. With its limited resources, it is much easier and less expensive to prevent medical conditions than to cure.
Every square block is assigned a family doctor, who lives in a small, two-storey house in the neighborhood. He or she ensures that every child receives the proper vaccinations and that every pregnant woman has a monthly check-up, blood tests. If a patient needs more complex care, he or she is referred to a specialist at a public hospital or clinic.
After the subsidies from Soviet Russia ended and Cuba's economy went into a tailspin, nothing was the same again. There were serious shortages of medicine in the 1990s, from simple aspirin to more badly needed drugs.
Medicines that cannot be found at a pharmacy are easily bought on the black market. These black markets are fueled by doctors, nurses and cleaning staff smuggle the medicine out of the hospitals in a bid to make extra cash.
Medical attention remains free, but many Cuban patients bring their doctors food, money or other gifts to get to the front of the line or to guarantee an appointment for an X-ray, blood test or operation. Without money or gifts, the waiting time for all but emergency procedures can be long.
The Cuban health care system is neither fast nor efficient for two important reasons. There is a lack of financial resources, and the "export" of doctors, nurses and dentists to Venezuela in exchange for hard currency.
Thousands of Cuban doctors go to Venezuela to provide primary health care, their tour of duty lasts a minimum of two years and they are paid approximately $50 a month, plus expenses. In exchange, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez sends Cuba petrol, part of which can be sold for hard currency.
Many Cubans complain that top-level government and Communist Party officials have access to VIP health treatment, while ordinary people must queue from dawn for a routine test, with no guarantee that the allotted numbers will not run out before it is their turn.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Cuba, Venezuela, health care, doctors, Soviet Union, Fidel Castro
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