Raising the capacity of the health system

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Second part of the two-part series on the Cuban state and people’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of lessons drawn by Cuba on how to manage the Covid-19 pandemic is the need to raise the capacity of its health care system to provide health care for seriously ill and critical patients. This is called intensive care which refers to highly specialized care which involves complex procedures.

Amid the pandemic, Cuba strengthened intensive care units (ICU) in various hospitals and facilities. It accelerated the development of new medical technologies and personnel trainings. It recognizes the role of nurses, whose duty is crucial to the survival of its patients. The Cuban state is planning to produce more beds for ICUs and complete its services from 2021 to 2026.

Cuba prepared for the worst and most daunting scenario when the pandemic hit. According to an article by Granma, the Cuban government’s official publication, Cuban doctors complied with global health protocols which they continually developed by incorporating lessons from their own practice. They applied these proce­dures to the particularities of their society and health system, to each individual patient and every case of infection. The accumulated experiences gave them the determination and confidence to implement protocols and the experiment in order to produce new drugs.

Cuba’s health system was never overwhelmed during the pandemic and the capacity of hospitals has never been exceeded. Cuban health workers managed to avoid getting infected, even in red zones. Not one doctor or nurse expired due to the virus. This is due to the strict implementation of biosecurity measureas and protocols. The sprit of camaraderie and cooperation among health workers was high as they ensured sanitation, and sufficient medical equipment and food.

Since the pandemic raged, the highest daily death toll recorded by Cuba is just six. On average, only one patient succumbs to the virus each day. No child, teenager or pregnant woman died due to the virus. This was made possible because of the Cuban people’s strict compliance with state regulations. All protocols are written, clear and straightforward. The media plays a vital role in disseminating correct information.

This pandemic response in Cuba is exceptional as the state has a strong political will to overcome the global health crisis. The response includes joint research and development work by scientists and the biotechnology industry. One of their immediate tasks was to come up with their own vaccine. Two of which—Soberana 1 and Soberana 2—are currently undergoing clinical trials.

Cuba actively deploys doctors and other health workers to various parts of the world. The Cuban state and people consider this as part of their internationalist duties. At present, there are 53 brigades of professionals under the Henry Reeve Medical Contingent deployed to 39 countries. This is in addition to Cuban health workers earlier deployed to 58 countries prior to the pandemic. Cuba believes that only through cooperation and solidarity will humankind be able save itself.

All these were made possible despite the harsh economic blockade that the US has imposed on Cuba for the past six decades. The blockade has cost the Cuban health system around $3 billion, which limits its capacity to send medical aid to other small countries.

Raising the capacity of the health system