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INTERNATIONAL: Cuba exporting doctors

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Here’s a long and interesting article on Cuban Medical Diplomacy. Essentially Castro has been exporting doctors all over the place, and now Chavez is using Venezuela’s oil money to pay for it. I was reading along wondering why we hadn’t imported a few Cuban MDs to handle the US inner cities when I discovered that apparently they offered to send 1,000 to Louisiana after Katrina, but were turned down.

The article is pretty favorable, even though it’s clear that the export of doctors and concentration on the medical care system is at least partly a propaganda stunt by the Cuban government. A couple of things worth noting, though.

First, sending doctors overseas to help other poor people may be worthy and all that (and has the positive benefits of upsetting foreign medical associations, as it’s done in Venezuela) but it doesn’t mean that human rights within Cuba are respected any more than there were during the Cold war. And sometimes the lack of human rights compounds the medical problems there. For example a colleague of mine’s daughter went to Cuba  to do a medical mission/training and met and married a Cuban doctor while there. That doctor was not allowed to leave with her to go to the US, and when he formally applied to do so, was fired from his job, and no longer allowed to practice. Thankfully he escaped by sea, after several, several terrifying attempts. But there is no justification for refusing to allow people to leave a country; and in this case it caused his medical training to be wasted.

Second, and this is my cynical side talking—isn’t excessive spending on health care something that only rich country like ours can afford? What has a poor country like Cuba gone without to provide doctors for the rest of the developing world?

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LilyMarkenlighteningJonathanCubanDoctor Recent comment authors
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Lily
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Lily

GREAT POST MARK! they should all live in cuba and see how they like it!

Mark
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Mark

Peter, the truth is that there is no embargo and there hasn’t been for a decade or so. The United States is Cuba’s number one trading partner in everything from soy, to sugar to corn to medical supplies and equiptment. The real problem is that the Cuban government sells everything for dollars to tourists and that includes medical equiptment and supplies. Getting adequete health care in Cuba is not just a matter of joining the communist party, but a matter of having dollars to pay for the services tourists get that Cubans are not allowed to get (except for a… Read more »

enlightening
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enlightening

It always amazes me how little the average US citizen knows about the rest of the world. Cuba has one of the best educational systems in the western world and that is judging by international indicators. In fact, they do better than the US at the high school level in many subjects. They train more doctors etc. than they can use. As a Jamaican I have benefitted from Cuban doctors greatly.

Jonathan
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Good post!Baby care

CubanDoctor
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I have a very close experience with the Cuban medical system as well as the live in Cuba. I lived in the country for 29 years, suffering the result of an absurd embargo that does not debilitate the Cuban government, but the Cuban people. I graduated from a Cuban medical school after 6 years of nothing but sacrifice, due to the lack of electricity and basic recourses. I might disagree with the quote regarding with the quality of Cuban doctors. It’s not a secret for anyone that Cubans health care professionals has served world wide for many years. Cuba does… Read more »

familydoc
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familydoc

This is why thousands of Americans are swimming the shark infested waters into Cuba……….. I worked with Cuban physicians in Africa and heard the same story – if you aren’t a member of the Party – you get substandard care. PS most of their training was VERY outdated and basic and there have been MANY lawsuits against them in Southern African countries – very nice people though and willing to learn – most despise Fidel. One of them , a urologist , told me how grateful he was to be doing primary care in rural Botswana , because back home… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

“What Cuban medicine does poorly is, for most citizens, advanced hospital care, where lack of good facilities and technology results from their weak economy. The economy is bad because of over centralized mismanagement” I would say that an American embargo on trade would be the main reason. Why do you think Haiti does so poorly. When the slaves revolted there and took control the U.S. would not trade in fear that slave revolt would spread to its shores. I guess they were viewed as just a bunch of terrorists. That legacy continues today. No political regime can exist without surviving… Read more »

David
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David

A note on Cuban medical statistics: Don’t believe them without independent evidence. Several emigre Cuban doctors have told me that their offices fudged disease reports, as their career advancement depends on reporting good results. This is true all the way up the chain. Some knew staff in the bureau of medical statistics who acknowledged fudging also at the aggregate level. There are several diseases, including HIV, that these doctors’ personal experiences indicate are underestimated in the official statistics. Not that personal experiences are any proof, but they do raise suspicions. Are the low levels of Cuban infant mortality correct? Can’t… Read more »

David
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David

With regard to the quality of physician training in Cuba and their approach to medicine generally: What Cuba does well is systematic, thorough tracking and treatment of the basic, simple health needs. Thus every small community has their personal doctor who knows each individual, as well as their families and friends, and follows up with preventive information and less technology intensive procedures. Thorough and consistent basic medical service is way ahead of our own non-systematic approaches to health care in this regard. I have this from my daughter, a physician who studied in Havana for 8 mos. and shadowed a… Read more »

pgbMD
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pgbMD

According to those that I met, only 10% of the Cuban populace is a member of the Party. I didn’t ask them what was required to become annointed into the Party but next time I will. From this I can only guess that 10% of the Cuban population gets adequate healthcare. As to infant mortality, the CDC or a NICU physician will not list “crack baby” as a cause of death but #1,4,5,6,8,9,10 could all be sequelae of the “crack baby” syndrome. However, #1 probably comprises most of them. I am not a NICU physician but my twin daughters were… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

I have no way to discount your experience at Gitmo but I would imagine that anyone trying to flee Cuba is not a member of their Communist Party. I also think if that was the only barrier between you and good healthcare then joining the party would be a small price to pay. That’s what the U.S. found in Iraq, people belonged to the Bath Party to get better jobs and perks. Kinda like those that belong to the Republican Party here to advance their job/income/connections/favorable legislation prospects. I went on the CDC web site http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_19.pdf to see how they… Read more »

pgbMD
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pgbMD

I may have some unique knowledge of the Cuban healthcare system. I have been to Club GITMO and delivered free healthcare to several Cuban exiles that got picked up by the US Navy after drifting into Guantanamo Bay. They told me that the healthcare in Cuba is excellent if you are a Member of the Communist Party, but if you are the unfortunate 90% of the populace that is not part of the Party then the care is horrid. Additionally, the poor infant mortality rate in the US is primarily due to the “crack baby” (an all encompassing term) problem… Read more »

Peter
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Peter

Posted by: RW “Is anyone concerned about the quality of the education these “doctors” are receiving?” “From the outset of the revolution, Fidel has made the health of the individual a metaphor for the health of the body politic. Therefore, he made the achievement of developed country health indicators a national priority. Rather than compare Cuban health indicators with those of other countries at a similar level of development, he began to compare them to those of the United States. This was particularly true for the infant mortality and life expectancy rates. Both are considered to be proxy indicators for… Read more »

RW
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RW

Is anyone concerned about the quality of the education these “doctors” are receiving?

john
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john

I’ve also read that doctors from India are finding it much more difficult to get into the country under the new visa requirements the US has imposed after 9/11. Many appear to going to other countries instead.