Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cuban health care

Nip and tuck in

Medicine is big business in Cuba

Nov 17th 2012 | HAVANA

SET in a former naval academy overlooking the Florida Straits, the Latin

American School of Medicine (ELAM) is supposed to symbolise Cuba's

generosity. Founded by Fidel Castro in 1999, the school's mission was to

provide free training to medical students from all over the world. But

these days, visiting foreign dignitaries are given a sales pitch along

with their campus tours.

As part of President Raúl Castro's attempt to stem his brother's

spending, many nations that send students to the school are now expected

to pay. Just how much isn't entirely clear, but the rates are high

enough to cause embarrassment to some of the customers. John Mahama,

Ghana's new president and a staunch ally of Cuba, has been obliged to

defend what looks like a pricey deal he signed with ELAM as vice-president.

Cuba's government has never been coy about the sale of its medical

services abroad. Official figures show that professionals working

overseas—largely in medicine—bring in around $6 billion a year (though

the doctors themselves receive only a small fraction of the revenue).

Most of that comes from Venezuela, which trades subsidised oil for

legions of Cuban health workers. But reports in Namibia suggest that

prices for services there are rising, too.

In Cuba itself, meanwhile, private medicine is readily available to

paying foreigners and well-connected locals. The two best hospitals in

Havana, Cira García and CIMEX, are run for profit. Both are far better

than normal state hospitals, where patients are often obliged to bring

their own sheets and food.

But health care is now also available on the buoyant black market. A

current vogue for breast implants is providing extra income to many

surgeons (whose state salary is around $20 a month). The director of one

of Havana's main hospitals was recently detained for running a private

health network on the side. Alongside the new restaurants that are

opening in the capital, as a result of Raúl Castro's partial easing of

economic restrictions, doctors are now less shy about selling their

services. One private dental practice in the Vedado district is notably

well-equipped with a snazzy dentist's chair and implements.

These medical entrepreneurs run the risk of prosecution. If caught, they

may be tempted to argue that they are simply following the government's


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