HAVANA – The Catholic Church sees an urgent need to seek “new formulas,” including an opening to private enterprise, in order to heal Cuba’s health-care system, which has deteriorated as a result of corruption, lack of funds and an unstable professional environment.
In an article posted on the Web site of the Catholic magazine Palabra Nueva, editor Orlando Marquez acknowledges that the 1959 Cuban Revolution achieved some notable social triumphs including health care, but the end of economic aid from the now-defunct Soviet Union gave way to a chronic crisis.
“Ever since the conditions that permitted and guaranteed that praiseworthy health-care program disappeared, it has been an urgent matter to find new formulas to restore it and guarantee its stability,” Marquez says.
The Communist-ruled island’s system of free universal healthcare is one of the revolution’s principal claims to fame, together with medical and pharmaceutical research, education and other social services.
Marquez suggests considering the participation of religious institutions in the health-care system, allowing cooperatives to provide some services, and combining public management with private enterprise.
The plan of economic reforms undertaken by the Raul Castro government includes strengthening the quality of health services through the efficient use of resources and the elimination of wasteful expenditures.
This project for “modernizing” the socialist economic model will be ratified at this month’s Congress of the ruling Communist Party, Cuba’s only legal political organization.
According to the editor of Palabra Nueva, the depth of Cuba’s health-care crisis can be diagnosed from the death of 26 mental patients suffering cold and malnutrition in 2010 at a Havana psychiatric hospital, a case he believes is only the “tip of the iceberg.”
A subsequent trial confirmed that the deaths were due to lack of attention and the theft from the hospital of food and clothing meant for the patients, a verdict that led to 13 people being sentenced for up to 15 years in jail, including the hospital’s director.
“Ignoring incipient problems has brought undesirable, tragic consequences,” Marquez said, blaming Cuba for being “too absorbed” and “excessively complacent” with its successes in health care and research and in vaunting itself to the world as a “medical powerhouse.”
“Fame went to our head and we didn’t foresee what could happen, nor did we wish to see the wound in our health-care system gaping ever wider as the years went by,” the article said. EFE