By Iris Armas Padrino | AIN Special Service | Periodico26.cu
The Cuban public healthcare system is undergoing profound changes. New ideas and concepts are being implemented with the purpose of bringing medical specialties closer to the community, and providing a service of excellence.
A key element of these transformations has been the refurbishing of polyclinics, for which the government has had to invest considerable funds despite the reinforcement of the US blockade against the Island.
There are 444 polyclinics scattered all over Cuba. Their facilities are being gradually upgraded in new program, and there are currently 107 of them totally refurbished.
As part of the new healthcare program, which was started in 2000, over 200 physiotherapy gyms have been opened. It is expected that by the end of 2005, all of the polyclinics will have this service available.
Specialties such as ophthalmology, optometry, x-rays, rehabilitation, ultrasound diagnostics, endoscopy and heart emergencies -often associated with big hospitals- have been brought to the polyclinic. Seminars were taught to train the polyclinic personnel with the new equipment.
Other important services included in the new healthcare program are 24 haemodialysis wards and 88 opticians.
Intensive care units have been opened in 118 municipalities whose hospitals did not have this resource. As a result, thousands of people have been saved, even those who had suffered heart attacks.
In 2004, the Cuban public healthcare system marked the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Family Doctor and Nurse Program, the backbone of Cuba’s primary health care network. To date, 99 percent of the island’s population is covered by this program, through 14,671 family doctors offices.
The praiseworthy work by Cuban healthcare professionals is not only for the treatment and curing of diseases, but also instruction they give for the prevention of diseases. The current infant mortality rate for the island, up to
November, was below 6 per thousand live births. This is, to a large extent, as a result of Cuba’s “army of white coats,” that guarantees child vaccination drives against 13 preventable diseases.
Another achievement this year has been the revitalizing and development of the cardiac centres, which puts Cuba among the top countries in cardiology in Central America and the Caribbean.
At the same time 27 major hospitals are undergoing modernization and refurbishing, with 8 expected to be completed by the end of the year. The program foresees extensions in all 267 hospitals island-wide.
An ongoing program for the renewal of equipment will have an impact in all primary and secondary health care services.
The expensive resources made available to polyclinics and hospitals permit far better treatment and health authorities have announced that soon every province will have CAT scan equipment.
On top of this, the year 2004 saw the increase of Cuba’s medical assistance abroad. 23,000 Cuban doctors and nurses are currently working in 66 nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.
They have substantially contributed to a decrease of infant mortality, infectious, and transmissible diseases and other ailments that currently pose great health care problems for these nations.