Guatemala: End of Cuban aid would leave a gap in health care

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Guatemala: End of Cuban aid would leave a gap in health care
Fecha de publicación: 
17 September 2020
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An eventual end of health collaboration with Cuba today would cause a complete vacuum of health care in rural and poorer areas of Guatemala, surgeon Ricardo Arriaza, BioHuman's medical director, warned here.

In an open letter released, addressed to deputy Felipe Alejos, from the Todos party, who insists on denigrating here the work of the Island Medical Brigade (BMC), Arriaza argued the consequences of leaving partial or total coverage in 88 of the 340 municipalities; 12 of the 29 health areas; 143 primary care posts and centers, as well as 10 Maternal and Child Care Centers would cause a health disaster.

The list is completed by 16 of the 44 public hospitals, 35 Permanent Care Centers and four ophthalmological hospitals, where these professionals provide their services, explained the also director of the Rotary Committee for the integral management of Disaster Risk.

Arriaza explained that, according to statistics from the WHO Global Health Observatory, in Guatemala there are 0.4 doctors and 0.1 nurses per thousand inhabitants (among the lowest in Latin America), of them, more than 90 percent exercise their profession in the capital city and the rest in the departmental capitals.

Regarding the cost-benefit ratio -an aspect highly questioned in the current discrediting campaign- Arriaza presented impact figures such as more than 47 million cases seen in 22 years of uninterrupted presence, as well as 494 thousand 360 surgeries and 218 thousand 902 cataract operations, services unattainable for a poor majority in private clinics.

I will not quantify the value or the price that would be paid for the 332 thousand 472 lives saved, because such a thing would be immoral, nor for the thousand 73 Guatemalan doctors trained at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, he said.

Instead, he proposed to Alejos (with car and gasoline included) 'to go together to La Democracia or Barillas, in Huehuetenango; La Tinta, Sayaxché or Uspantán, a non-business day at any time and there, I guarantee you, we will find a Cuban aid worker serving our countrymen with a smile on his lips. '

Aware of the work of the BMC, with which in 2018 he shared the attention of Guatemalans during the eruption of the Fuego volcano, Arriaza summoned the congressman to verify how they work in those remote places for eight hours a day and answer any emergency call, since they live together with its settlers.

'The same work that we Guatemalans could surely do, but we do not do it, among other things, because there are no conditions for our families to develop in a humane and dignified way, nor have an honorable salary,' he said.

Today the BMC has 441 cooperators, covers 16 of the 22 departments and participates together with the Ministry of Health in the first line of confrontation with Covid-19.


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