An explosion of coronavirus cases shakes Cuba’s health system

Publicado em 31 agosto 2021

A Cuban doctor impatiently disarms his stethoscope to be able to adapt his type Y tube to an oxygen tank and thus be able to save two seriously ill patients from coronavirus, at a time when an explosion of contagions overflows the health services of Cuba, pride and column of its social system.

On July 26, Pedro Julio Miranda, a 26-year-old doctor, faced a dilemma while on duty at the Hospital del Sur, in the central province of Villa Clara: he had four patients in serious condition and only three oxygen tanks.

“Imagine playing God, deciding who lives and who dies. I thought if i didn’t do something one of the four was definitely going to die, “Miranda tells AFP via WhatsApp.

I was looking for “something that was hollow and bifurcated at one of its ends, until God enlightened me, I had the solution close and he was unable to see it because it was around his neck. “It was his stethoscope.

The Ministry of Health rrecognized weeks later “limitations” to provide medical oxygen. And in the eastern province of Holguín, dozens of doctors denounced in two collective videos the hospital collapse in their region, something unusual in the socialist Caribbean country.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel himself said on August 12 that the situation had “exceeded the capacities of the health system, stressing the work of all its personnel “.

Cuba managed to manage the health crisis until last July the delta variant triggered the coronavirus infections. The average number of daily cases up to August 22 was higher “by 39.2% than at the end of July”, reported José Ángel Portal, Minister of Health.

Until Monday, the island, of 11.2 million inhabitants, accumulated 646,513 cases and 5,219 deaths.

The problems

For Amilcar Pérez-Riverol, a Cuban researcher at the Fapesp Foundation at the State University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), there is “a serious situation and an explosion of uncontrolled transmission of the virus “.

“Cuba has remained for many weeks with a positivity rate around 20%”, four times the WHO rate “as an alarm of high viral circulation,” he said.

With a wide network of neighborhood clinics, the country has 82 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, versus 32 in France and 26 in the United States, according to the WHO. Even Havana has deployed some 4,000 health professionals in some forty countries to help tackle Covid-19.

The main asset of the Cuban health system is prevention, but in the “second level it is not a power at all”, assured Pérez-Riverol.

“When an explosion of this magnitude occurs, if the first containment barrier is overwhelmed, at the second level the situation worsens very quickly,” he added.

Under the US trade embargo since 1962, the country’s hospital system has for years infrastructure weaknesses, shortage of medicines, diagnostic supplies and equipment.

“My people, I have my father in therapy with both lungs compromised,” he said on his Twitter account Mag Jorge Castro, while asking for drugs such as nimotuzumab, jusvinza and cefepime. Other messages on social networks spoke of patients who they would have been intubated without sedatives.

State television reports have realized that people wait up to 24 hours to be transferred to a hospital and the AFP was able to verify lack of antigen testing, PCR and medications in local clinics.

The solution?

With a biometric industry that produces most of the vaccines for its population, Cuba developed its own immunizers against the coronavirus: Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus, although not yet recognized by the WHO.

In addition, it began to use the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine on Sunday in the central province of Cienfuegos.

When vaccination began in May, the government proposed to have supplied the antiviral to 70% of the population by August and to complete 100% in December, but currently only 3.5 million Cubans are immunized (31.3%).

At the end of May Yuri Valdés, deputy director of the Finlay Institute, which produces Soberana, denounced that, due to the US embargo, they had not obtained supplies to make more vaccines.

“Soberana’s production has stabilized, now you must increase vaccination“said Pérez-Riverol and stressed that there are preliminary indications of the effectiveness of the Cuban vaccine because in Havana, where the entire vaccinable population is immunized, there is no news of hospital collapse or an increase in funeral services.

AFP Agency


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