HAVANA, Nov 30. The United Cuban Health Observatory and the Independent Medical College in Cuba sent an open letter to the Minister of Public Health this Wednesday,
José Ángel Portal Miranda, in which they condemn the public ridicule to which six Cuban surgeons on trial for the death of a patient have been subjected, denounce the deplorable current conditions of the health system and demand explanations about the destination of the millionaire sums in the last decade for the export of professional medical services.
The signatories of the document, including doctors Alexander Jesús Figueredo Izaguirre, Arnoldo de la Cruz Bañoble, Sergio Barbolla Verdecia and Jorge David Yaugel, express “discontent with the health authorities of the municipality of Bayamo and the province of Granma” over the criminal prosecution of the surgeons Rafael José Sánchez Vázquez, Yoandra Quesada Labrada, Ristian Solano, Elizabeth Silvera, William Pérez Ramírez and Henrry Rosales Pompa.
The authorities “as an institution, better than anyone, know the sacrifice that doctors make to care for their patients well, in the midst of shortages of all kinds, and they have abandoned them to their fate to be judged by people who neither know them nor are familiar with the very adverse context in which they work every day,” they point out in the text.
In the opinion of the promoters of the letter, “those responsible for diverting the resources provided by the medical brigades should appear in court as accused”, whom they identify as “the real culprits of the crisis of the national health system, of the deaths “massive deaths during the pandemic due to a lack of oxygen tanks, medicines and ambulances, of the deaths of patients due to a lack of drugs to control chronic diseases or for doctors to successfully carry out their work in the operating rooms.”
“What happened in Bayamo is a national shame. The accusers should point out those truly responsible for that death. These doctors are also victims of the conflict between their professional commitment and the impossibility of succeeding in the conditions in which they are forced to intervene in their patients.
The figure of the doctor in current Cuban society, marked by a deep economic crisis, must receive the recognition that he deserves for working in these circumstances and not subject us to public ridicule,” they maintain.
The letter asks Public Health leaders to “respond for the resources that were not invested in the sector when the (exported) medical brigades provide the main income of dollars to the country.”
“We demand as professionals that they explain to us and explain to the people where the tens of billions of dollars that the Cuban Ministry of Public Health has received in the last decade, for ‘medical missions’, have gone.” , they say.
For the signatories, “it is evident that this money has not been invested in the Cuban health system as was argued at the time to justify the arbitrary deduction of between 70% to 90% of the brigade members’ salaries during all these years.
There would have been enough to keep the health system in optimal conditions and pay decent salaries to professionals in the sector.
They demand that those “who have handled these astronomical amounts of money be publicly accountable for their fate and that the resources still available be immediately invested in providing the national health system with equipment, supplies and drugs to prevent the loss of lives that has already occurred from continuing.” caused the diversion of those funds, as occurred in the case of Bayamo”.
Likewise, they demand the payment of “the entire salary when we go out to provide services to other countries” and not “a minimum stipend of the same”, which they consider “theft” and “slave work.”
“This policy, put into practice by a government that at every moment invokes the humanism of the society it presides over, must cease. The measures taken against a professional who abandons, for whatever reason, what they have called ‘ medical missions to militarize a simple civil contractual relationship established by two parties, an employer and an employee (in this case the doctor)”, they point out.
“When for some reason our health professionals—exercising universal labor rights recognized by Cuba—have decided for some reason to end a contract, they have been sentenced to eight years of exile, the impossibility of their relatives going out to visit them during that time, and the confiscation of previously earned money that is in Cuban bank accounts awaiting its return.
They are treated, Mr. Minister, as if they were deserters from an army or common criminals,” they say.
“It is time to put an end to so much arbitrariness, abuse and humiliation of the medical profession, and the regulations on second-degree specialists must also stop. We are human beings, we are not property of the State that is rented or sold.
We do not want them to continue dehumanizing us to obtain financial benefits at our expense. Benefits whose destiny no one has audited,” they add.
Finally, the United Cuban Health Observatory and the Independent Medical College in Cuba demand “an immediate salary increase for everyone who works within the health system, doctors, nurses and technicians. Their work must be remunerated as they deserve because The life of the people is in their hands.
The doctors’ letter conveys concern about the health situation in Cuba, the deterioration of the infrastructure, equipment and supplies of hospitals, polyclinics and other facilities intended to care for patients, in recent times very visible in the complaints of numerous people affected on social networks.
As the signatories of the document point out, the lack of means of protection makes the protocols more incompatible with good practices every day. The absence of medicines is very serious and the population feels more unprotected than at any other time.