Castro’s Death and Cuban Health Care

cuba-flagThe recent death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro brought forth a grotesque encomium from the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who asserted “Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

Michael Moore, producer of propaganda dressed as documentaries, made a film in 2007 called Sicko, in which he also praised Cuban health care. The reality was different. According to a U.S. intelligence cable published by WikiLeaks, a local person employed by U.S. intelligence covertly observed:

  • Many young cancer patients reportedly have become infected with Hepatitis C after their surgeries. Contracting Hepatitis C after surgery indicates a lack of proper blood screening prior to administering transfusions. All blood should be screened for Hepatitis B, C, HIV and Syphilis prior to use. Patients have no recourse and are not fully informed of the seriousness of such an inadvertent infection.
  • Patients had to bring their own light bulbs if they wanted light in their rooms. The switch plates and knobs had been stolen from most of the rooms so one had to connect bare wires to get electricity. There was no A/C and few patients had floor fans. Patients had to bring their own sheets, towels, soap and supplemental foods. Hospital food service consisted of rice, fish, rice, eggs, and potatoes day after day. No fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat were available.
  • The laboratory equipment is very rudimentary – a simple CBC (complete blood count) blood test is calculated manually by a laboratory technician looking through a microscope and counting the individual leucocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, etc.

What about the wonderful hospital portrayed by Moore in his film? The U.S. intelligence cable explains that, too:

Built in 1982, this newly renovated 600 bed, 24 story hospital is depicted in Michael Moore’s film “Sicko,” where some 60 surgeries are performed daily including heart, kidney, and cornea transplants, mostly to patients who receive free treatment as part of Operation Milagro (mostly from Venezuela, but also from the rest of Latin America). The two top floors (shown in the movie) are the most modern and are reserved for medical tourists and foreign diplomats who pay in hard currency.

Ordinary Cuban patients are not allowed in this hospital. To attract medical tourists, it promotes its services on an English-language website. Here is the irony: The hospital attracts Western patients by offering bundled prices for procedures, such as a range of $9,000 to $15,000 for open-heart surgery. An American patient would find it all but impossible to get such transparent pricing from a U.S. hospital.

Of course, the problems American patients have with hospital, insurance, and government bureaucracy pale beside the tragedy of Cuban (lack of) health care.

Comments (3)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    Your article is mainly discussing the hospitals of the non-elite. However, even the hospitals where the political elites are treated are of poor quality compared to hospitals in this country. Economist Milica Bookman coauthored a book on medical tourism in developing countries. She assessed the hospitals in Cuba and said Cuba is not a medical tourism destination.

    • Jimbino says:

      Well, if Cuba is not a medical tourism, Costa Rica, Brazil and Argentina certainly are. In fact, you will find that Argentina has more shrinks per capita than does the USSA, and that Brasil and Argentina lead the world in cosmetic surgery.

    • It was the same with grocery stores in the USSR. When Gorbachev first visited a supermarket in North America, he thought it was only for the party elite. He was surprised to learn anyone could walk in and shop.