Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Some facts about health service in Cuba

I NOTE, with amusement and dismay, that a group of Assembly members will soon be going to Cuba on a "factfinding mission" to observe the country's healthcare system (News, September 21).

It is my hunch that these people are focused more on beaches and Mohitos than the (frankly appalling) health provision in Cuba.

I was on the island five years ago when I suffered an episode of gout and was referred to the general hospital in Santiago.

I could hardly believe the scene of squalour and lack of basic facilities. The building itself was in an appalling state of repair. There were no lifts. Patients were being stretchered up and down stairs.

I was told that friends and families of patients had to provide food, clothes and bedclothes. There was only one oxygen cylinder for the 20-patient ward and its drugs cabinet was almost empty.

Fortunately, I received a quick diagnosis from an obviously competent doctor, which brings me to the nub of the matter.

Medical training appears to be excellent. Doctors earn little more than street-sweepers, yet they soldier on. There is severe restriction on them working abroad and those who do usually have to leave their families behind. The MLAs seem to be heading off on a "jolly" on the basis of a spurious rumour that Cuba has a fine health service. I wonder who has authorised all this?

Maybe they authorised the trip themselves. Which is, of course, at our expense.

RONIN McMULLEN

Belfast

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