In defense of our doctors

Médicos cubanos antes de salir a una misión. (EFE)
Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)
Eliecer Ávila

23 de abril 2015 - 17:30

Havana/Last night while watching the images of the homecoming of the doctors who participated in the fight against Ebola in Africa I was very excited. I believe that every man or woman in the world who decides to run these risks to save the lives of unknown human beings thousands of miles away deserves total respect and admiration. In my own family there are examples of this.

They are completely mistaken, however, those who think that, because of having different ideas, wanting Internet for everyone, along with real wages and basic freedoms, the opposition is against this solidarity or doesn’t recognize the courage and heroism of our physicians. Nothing is further from the truth.

On the contrary, if we could attend a democratic parliament many of us would fight the whole time in favor of better living conditions and of working for them. I believe that in the same way it is legitimate to share material and human resources with those with the greatest need, and it is also legitimate to wage serious debate in our country about wages, security, and the role of the State in general, with respect to Cubans who participate in these foreign missions. Many of them have written several letters telling us of their experiences, with their lights and shadows.

On the other hand, the fundamental problem of the income of Cuban professionals in the country persists. And this extends to all sectors and goes directly against what should be the primary objective, that is adequate attention to our own people.

The doctor who cares for families in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra in Cuba, has the same right to progress in life as the one who operates at the Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, as the one who works outside the country. All of them sacrifice equally, and the cost of this sacrifice, which extends to their families who are affected at all levels, should be studied, publicized and discussed.

I know clinical specialists and surgeons who don’t even have a bicycle to get to work and who serve interminable shifts with a snack that may be nothing more than plantains and a glass of sugar water. I also know guys who spend a month on an optometry course, leave on a mission, and on returning to Cuba are able to give their professor a ride in their own car. And what is wrong is not the latter, but the first.

In any case, I am not trying to fully address this issue in one article. So I return to the original idea, which is nothing more than to congratulate from the depths of my heart the doctors, nurses and support staff who returned home yesterday. I want to reiterate that they will always have an ally in us. The fight for democracy is also the fight for life, for peace and for people’s material and spiritual happiness, without which health is impossible.

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