Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Myth: In 1958 most Cubans had no Access to Health Care

We often hear about Cuba's "universal healthcare" from castro apologists. Of course you can see what that's really like at The Real Cuba. But the supposition from these people is that before castro Cubans suffered from poor health care or had little access to it. In this series of posts that will bust myths like these, I will rely mainly on one source, The Losers: The Definitive Account, by an Eyewitness, of the Communist Conquest of Cuba and the Soviet Penetration in Latin America by Paul Bethel. Who is Paul Bethel? He was the press officer for the U.S. embassy in Havana until diplomatic relations with Cuba were broken in 1961. He was a witness of Cuba before during and after castro's revolution.

What, then was the situation in Cuba in 1957 and 1958? Let us take the poor, diseased Cuban as the first example. The University of Havana was foremost in Latin America in training doctors and dentists. Cuba had one doctor for each 998 inhabitants, surpassed only by Argentina with one doctor for each 764 inhabitants, and by Uruguay with one to each 860. It took seven years to get a medical degree in Cuba, compared to four and five years in some of the other countries.

Furthermore, every Cuban was entitled to free medical care in state hospitals. There were 69 such hospitals throughout the island providing free x-rays, medical checkups, labaratory tests, and free hospitalization. There were municipal first-aid clinics, also free, which employed 1341 medical doctors.

One interesting development was that of the private cooperative clinic. One hundred sixty eight of these dotted the island of Cuba where, for a monthly fee of $2.00 and $3.00, Cubans received full hospitalization, free surgery, specialist consultation, and in-and-out treatment, which included medicines.

In 1958, Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in all of Latin America, 37.6 per thousand, attesting to its medical care and to the abundance of relatively inexpensive medicines. When Castro came to power quite unexpectedly on January 1, 1959, Cuba's death rate was the lowest in Latin America.

The same enviable position was enjoyed by the Cubans as regards dental care. Here Cuba ranked third among her neighbors, surpasssed only by Argentina and Uruguay. Incidentally, healthy Cuban teeth chewed 75 pounds of meat per capita each year, again surpassed only by the molar activity of Uruguayans and Argentinians--all of them prodigious meat eaters. The calories consumed daily by the Cuba came to 2,870 compared to 3,100 for U.S. Citizens.
Stay tuned for more myth busting. Up next, the myth of U.S. hedgemony on Cuba's sugar industry and other economic myths.

1 comment:

Juan Paxety said...

A great book. Try to find a copy - I found one on ebay. In addition to telling a lot about Cuba and the revolution, it also shows how little the American news media and State Department have changed since 1959.