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Cuban doctor tells the Government that 'it is not willing to publicly recognize the reality: Covid-19 overwhelmed us'

Dr. Ernesto Haber Santos responds to Prime Minister Manuel Marrero.

Santiago de Cuba
Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero.
Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero. Estudios Revolución

Cuban doctors continue to condemn Manuel Marrero's comments against them after the prime minister blamed medical personnel for the current health crisis on the island related to Covid-19, and even claimed that citizens have complained more about poor care than about the shortage of medicines.

On Sunday Dr. Ernesto Haber Santos, who works at the Saturnino Lora Hospital in Santiago de Cuba, criticized Marrero's remarks, responding that Cuban doctors "are good, but they can also make mistakes, especially with the workload they have and the pressure to which they are being subjected, for a simple reason:  Covid-19 overwhelmed us, the United States, Spain and everywhere else."

"We are working with what little we have, and as hard as we can; exhausted, leaving our families, and putting them at risk. But they’re not willing to publicly recognize the reality, preferring to look for a culprit, and, from what I can see, anyone will do. We have plenty of heart. We’re giving our all, and, at the way things are going, we'll have to continue to do so until who knows when," he added on Facebook in reference to the Communist Party of Cuba's (PCC) "Ponle corazón" (Put your heart into it) campaign.

The doctor said that "our prime minister's opinion belies the traditional prestige of Cuban doctors. If Cuban medical and paramedical personnel are as excellent in the human and academic spheres as has always been said, then the official sources' statements don't add up. If they are not, then Cuba's University of Medicine is not of high quality, and is granting degrees to people without the requisite aptitude and knowledge to practice, such that our pride in Cuba as a medical powerhouse is based on an illusion."

With reference to Cuban doctors, Haber stated that "the only thing we ever had more of was morale, pride and love for this profession. Even before the pandemic. It is very difficult to administer the antibiotic of choice for any disease. There aren't enough doctors or nurses to give patients the internationally recommended levels of attention. If I listed all the deficiencies that we suffer from, it would be endless, and that's not my intention. "Put our hearts into it," they say... Jesus Christ!"

"At this time it is almost impossible to put a simple Levine catheter on a patient, or to feed an unconscious one, and then there is the risk of tubing him like that, whether in an ICU or  an operating room. We have intubated patients without sedatives or relaxants. Now imagine a patient who is intubated and ventilated being almost awake. One who is poorly fed and, when he contracts a respiratory infection due to ventilation (almost impossible to avoid anywhere in the world) will most likely not have the ideal antibiotics, for the appropriate time, and at the recommended dose. The situation is very challenging," he explained.

"Why do you think that we come to work under these conditions, many on duty every three days for a salary of approximately 5,500 pesos, which is not enough to eat, badly, in a country where prices rise every week? How many of us have been in the red zone without sufficient means of protection? We've had to treat 60 patients in a ward a day, or more than 20 serious ones, or 5 in critical condition. Do you know how long it takes to treat a critical patient?" the doctor asked.

"We're finishing late at night things we wanted to do at 8:00 AM, due to the volume of work. It could take 3 days to analyze things that I?ve had 15 minutes to decide. People are not aware that, due to the current situation, there are doctors working outside their areas of expertise and experience. It's very easy to criticize from the outside. How many doctors and nurses, orderlies and graduates have died, or, worse still, infected their children and parents? I've been in the red zone with a cloth mask. ‘Put your hearts into it’ they say! It's so sad, so distressing."

Last week the Cuban government tried to blame doctors for the health crisis on the island, where oxygen and medicine are lacking. After the criticisms of his words, Marrero praised the doctors.

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