I write to echo and expand upon the recent comments by Manual J. Coto, MD (Bulletin, April 2006) regarding the trip to Cuba by William B. Stetson, MD (Bulletin, December 2005). There is no freedom in Cuba, and if Americans—physicians and patients alike—do not understand that, then they need to research the issue much more. But more relevant to our profession is the grand myth surrounding Cuban medicine.
I witnessed the facade created by the Cuban government regarding the state of health care there when I attended the SICOT World Congress in Havana two years ago. I had the chance to speak to the public, including my relatives there, and to orthopaedic surgeons in active practice. They took me on an unheralded tour of Frank Pais, the “great” Cuban orthopaedic hospital.
Fortunately I was under the radar, unlike the big American medical groups for which they amply prepare. I expected to be impressed but instead was appalled. The primitive facilities appeared 40 years behind the times, and there was minimal clinical activity. The irony is that people from countries [with] better equipped [health care systems] frequently travel as health care tourists to Cuba. They would be much better off seeking the best care in their own lands. I really expected that Castro’s flagship hospital would at least have the basics. I can only imagine what community hospitals caring for “the people of the revolution” are like.
The world community has this romantic notion that Cuban medicine is at an excellent level despite some hardship. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Alejandro Badia, MD