Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Cuban doctors help Italians

As autumn approaches, Cuba looks gloomy. The government may have invited Spanish influencers in recent months to promote the island. Tourism is stagnant.

The Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed this essential activity for the country and foreign visitors continue to avoid the Caribbean island, concerned by reports of shortages of food, medicine and fuel, as well as an increase in insecurity. This low tourist attendance can only fuel the economic crisis and the disorganization of the regime, subject to an increasingly strict embargo by the United States.

There remains an important asset in Cuba: its health personnel. In particular: its medical brigades, which the regime has already sent to more than 160 countries victims of natural disasters or hit by epidemics. Sending doctors on missions abroad has progressively become the island’s main source of income and brings between 6,000 and 8,000 million dollars a year to Cuba.

If Cuban doctors first intervened in friendly countries in Latin America or Africa, Cuba then went in search of richer nations. The country has sold its services to Kuwait and Qatar, and has even found clients in Europe, in medical deserts, where it is difficult to recruit caregivers.

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In Locri, the hospital is in ruins. Citizens gathered to alert public authorities about the decline of this public service.

Bruna Filippone, creator of the association Let’s defend the hospital:

Bruna Filippone
Bruna Filippone © Radio France – Maïlys Khider

“Health in Calabria faces multiple problems: lack of personnel, lack of adequate instruments. Our hospital is short staffed. That’s why the Cuban doctors arrived. But it is a placebo decision. In 1 or 2 years, depending on their contract, they will leave. And what will happen? We still don’t have competitions or anything. We appreciate the presence of these Cuban doctors who allow our hospital to breathe. But when these contracts end, what will we do? Will we bring other Cuban doctors? Are they the same? If you bring other Cuban doctors, we will start from scratch.”

Cuban Doctors Help Italians

Roberto Occhiuto, president of the Calabria region, in his office in Reggio Calabria on April 22, 2023.
Roberto Occhiuto, president of the Calabria region, in his office in Reggio Calabria on April 22, 2023. © Radio France – Maïlys Khider

In 2020, two brigades of Cuban doctors were urgently sent to Lombardy to provide assistance to health teams, overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. They stayed there for two months. This time Calabria summons Cuban doctors as part of a mission that will last at least until 2025. The president of Calabria, Roberto Occhiuto (from the center-right party Forza Italia), acknowledges that, without the arrival of these doctors, he would have had to close the 4 hospitals in question:

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“Calabria’s health problem is not just the bills. The problem is that it does not guarantee the right to receive care for Calabrians. Essential levels of support are very low. So, driven by desperation, I thought I had to invent a solution to guarantee the right to health of Calabrians. I remembered that a few years ago, Cuban doctors came to Italy at the time of covid. I documented myself. I saw that Cuba had a universally recognized health system, an excellent university system, which sent highly appreciated Cuban doctors to many countries in the world. “I asked the Cuban government company that deals with health services to send me Cuban doctors to Italy.”

For more than 60 years, brigades of Cuban doctors have operated throughout the world. From the first hours of the Revolution, health was consolidated as a pillar of Cuban society. The first country to receive 111 Cuban doctors is Algeria, barely independent.

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Today in Cuba there is 8.3 doctors per 1,000 population. This is the highest density in the world, according to the World Bank.

Fidel Castro Ruz, former president of Cuba, in a 2003 speech:

“Our country is capable of sending the necessary doctors to the darkest corners of the world. Doctors and not bombs! “Doctors and not smart weapons to aim correctly.”

This operation costs the Calabria region 28 million euros per year. The Cuban mission occurs after Giorgia Meloni took power in the country. Beyond divergent ideologies, Italy is among Cuba’s three main European trading partners (and ninth worldwide).

Other European countries began to ask Cuban doctors for help. Last June, Portugal asked Cuba to strengthen its health centers in need. A hospital in Northern Ireland should welcome a hundred Cuban doctors before the end of the year. In France, elected communist officials in Isère, Ardèche, Creuse and Côtes-d’Armor wrote to the Cuban embassy and the Ministry of Health.

Can the island of Cuba compensate for all the medical deserts in Europe? To follow…

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