Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cuba Health Care in Disrepair

Cuba Health Care in Disrepair
Drafts investment plan intends to renew.

HAVANA -- The Cuban government is developing an investment plan,
proportionally its biggest ever, for the restoration of a severely
deteriorated group of the country's hospitals, officials said.

Many of the country's hospitals have suffered material deterioration due
to the trade embargo imposed by the United States on the island since
the first years of the revolution and the economic crisis that hit the
island in the 1990s, Deputy Health Minister Joaquin Garcia Salabarria
said in a press conference on Monday.

"This isn't a slogan, this is a real, objective plan for the material
and technical foundations of public health that there has been no way to
heal in a short space of time," Garcia Salabarria said.

The health official said that the investment process aimed at improving
that situation has been in recent years "the biggest the Cuban state has
developed in proportion to other sectors of the economy and services."

He said that the investment plan "could be more or less accelerated"
depending on conditions in the country, which are "unquestionably"
influenced by the international economic situation, which looks to be
"very aggressive" in the coming years.

"There is a complete strategic plan answering to the solutions required
and some investments have been approved this year," Garcia Salabarria said.

The deputy health minister said that after 50 years of revolution, Cuba
is "a world medical power," the result of its public health project,
"the basic cell" of a system that is "free" and "accessible."

The health sector accounted for 10.6 percent of the gross domestic
product (GDP) and 14.7 percent of the government's budget, Garcia
Salabarria said.

The health official said that investments planned up to the year 2015 in
the sector are aimed at a continued improvement of the population's
state of health and raising Cubans' current life expectancy from 77.9
years to somewhere in their 80s.

Subsidized prices for medicines will be maintained, and the sector will
not be included in the elimination of "gratuities" and subsidies
mentioned during the last session of the National Assembly held last
week, Garcia Salabarria said.

In his wide-ranging review, the health official said the Cuban
health-care system closes 2008 with an infant mortality rate of 4.7 for
every 1,000 live births, a staff of 488,767 doctors and technicians,
with 47,554 of them giving service in 97 other countries.

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