At the start of April, I had the interesting opportunity to observe Cuba’s healthcare system firsthand. After several days of progressively worsening flu-like symptoms, I went to the hospital with what I knew had to be a high fever. As it turned out, I was running a fever of 38.3 degrees Celsius, or approximately 101 Fahrenheit, and when the first doctor I saw learned of the possibility I had the flu I was given an injection for the fever and a face mask to reduce the risk of contagion and sent in an ambulance to another facility to see a specialist, without any charge for the first hospital visit. Upon arrival at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, however, we (Dr. Schnepf and I) had to wait for ten minutes until someone unlocked the door and let me in, and then wait for several more until we actually saw the specialist. After a brief examination and questions about the last time I had been outside of Cuba (January) and whether anyone else had similar symptoms (no), I was given two options: be admitted to a hospital overnight for observation and tests, or go home and return to the doctor if any complications arose. I chose the second option and was prescribed Tamiflu and Dipyrona. Overall, the impression I got of the Cuban medical system was favorable. They don’t have the latest or most disposable medical equipment: my temperature was taken with a mercury thermometer, my face mask was cloth and not paper, and the only item thrown away after my examination was a tongue depressor; but overall I felt that the doctors were competent and professional, and my wait outside of the second facility was more due to the lateness of the hour than any natural institutional consequence of socialized healthcare, and the lack of equipment attributable to the generally poor state of the Cuban economy as a whole. Despite the debility of that economy, the only aspect of my treatment that the program had to pay for was the medication for which cost a mere pittance. And most importantly of all, that medication got me back on my feet and healthy.
Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Category: Student Blogs