Friday, April 27, 2007

Exporting healthcare to Cuba

Posted on Fri, Apr. 27, 2007

Exporting healthcare to Cuba
Associated Press

A Florida medical supply company opened two days of meetings with Cuban
authorities Thursday, showing off an anesthesia machine and other
healthcare equipment in hopes of whetting the island's appetite for
American medical goods.

''Cuba appreciates the high quality of American medical supplies,'' said
Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the Cuban food import company Alimport. ``But
the [U.S.] embargo affects the ability to export these supplies to Cuba.''

Alvarez said at the small exhibition by Mercury Medical of Clearwater,
Fla., that companies have lost billions of dollars in sales over the years.

U.S. companies can sell medicine and medical supplies directly to the
communist country under the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act. A law in 2000
authorized the United States to export food and agricultural products to
the island.

But the rules and required paperwork make the transactions tedious.
Alvarez did not offer figures on medical exports to Cuba, but officials
have said the amount is small, mostly because of high cost of U.S.
medical goods.

U.S. food and farm goods have fared better. Earlier this year, Alvarez
said that Cuba had spent more than $100 million during the first quarter
to import American foodstuffs.

Mercury Medical brought an estimated $100,000 worth of its own and other
U.S. manufacturers' goods to display at the gathering hosted by Alimport
and Cuba's Health Ministry.

Along with the $25,000 anesthesia machine, the goods included devices
for monitoring blood pressure and respiratory equipment.

The equipment will be donated to the Health Ministry for distribution to
hospitals and clinics after the gathering, said event organizer Pamela
Ann Martin, of Molimar Export Consultants of Ambler, Pa.

Martin said it took months to obtain U.S. government permission to ship
the equipment to Cuba.

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