The investment project underway in Havana to improve physical conditions and equipment at health care facilities, as well as medical research and teaching centers, made significant progress in 2016, contributing to broader efforts to raise the quality of public health services in the country.
Concluded in the Cuban capital, last year, were more than 2,000 projects to provide patients and workers more comfort; to consolidate the population's satisfaction with services offered; make the public health system more efficient and sustainable; and maintain the statistical indicators achieved in this arena.
A visit to several recently remodeled institutions by Granma International confirmed the progress made to date, in a project that has included building repairs, new furniture and medical equipment, as well as the addition of new areas, such as a ward with observation cameras at Calixto García University Hospital.
Dr. Carlos Alberto Martínez Blanco, surgeon and director of this prestigious hospital, explained that the first stage of repairs began in 2011, with work completed on the emergency area, which has seen the number of patients it serves double in 2016, while the number of unscheduled surgeries dealing with difficult emergency situations has increased.
The 120-year-old hospital has become a national reference for the management of medical emergencies, serious burns, and multi-trauma, Dr. Martínez reported, showing us the updated hospital rooms, intensive care unit, and surgical theaters.
"Our hospital performs more than 20,000 surgeries a year. Likewise improved were nephrology and hemodialysis services with the installation of 20 beds. We also reopened the neurosurgery pavilion, which was closed for ten years, and can now admit 40 patients. Installed there was a modern surgical unit to treat cranial pathologies," the director noted.
Repairs at the hospital included work on engineering systems related to air conditioning, water supply, steam boilers for the kitchen, laundry, and sterilization area. The grounds were also improved with the reconstruction of sidewalks, roads, and walkways, along with the creation of outdoor rest areas for staff, patients, and companions.
Opened was a new ward to serve geriatric patents, who may arrive to the emergency area with a variety of ailments, including strokes and multiple illnesses, reported Dr. Mercedes Ramos Quiroga.
She added that also admitted are patients who require surgery, and suffer chronic non-infectious diseases, to stabilize their vital signs before the operation. She showed us the ward, specially adapted to serve older adults' needs, with higher toilets, handrails and supports in bathtubs and showers, and the elimination of architectural obstacles that could cause falls.
Dr. Ramos noted the lights and fans above every bed in the ward, and furniture suited to the limited mobility of older patients.
She expressed her satisfaction with the Cuban government and the Ministry of Public Health's efforts to provide financing to address the buildings' physical deterioration, to renew the old, and make such facilities available to the population free of charge.
A similar opinion was offered by patient Dayli Betancourt Acosta, from the province of Matanzas, and her spouse Ruber Leyva Reyes, who had traveled to the Rheumatology Center located in the Diez de Octobre Clinical Surgical University Hospital, known to Havana residents as La Dependiente.
In this facility, director Dr. Yunior Luis Pulido Prieto reported that remodeling had been completed in areas devoted to imaging and sterilization, to the kitchen-dining room, the laundry area, the main surgical theater, and the Zorrilla Pavilion where the infectious disease department is located, while efforts are still underway at the Antonio Pérez-Pérez Pavillion, which will provide geriatric attention across three hospitalization wards. To be located in this building's basement are a warehouse, a neurophysiology lab, and pharmacy.
The doctor emphasized the quality of work completed by cooperatives, which have been recognized by the hospital's personnel given the magnificent job done.
Rheumatology Center specialist Dr. Carlos Carrillo Reyes added that this unit's emergency staff receives patients from around the country, who arrive experiencing severe joint pain.
"Our center," he said, "trains human resources nationally in this specialty and for other interested nations, and is conducting clinical trials based on
monoclonal antibodies to investigate auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, bone pathologies and others."
HEALTH & SCIENCE GO HAND IN HAND
These results are among the best competing for the National Health Prize. As 2016 ended, 115 works had been evaluated by academic juries, 72 for the traditional prize, 21 PhD theses, plus 23 for Masters degrees or specializations.
The Scientific Merit Lifelong Career Prize was awarded this year to doctors Israel Forrajero Martínez, Orlando Vals Pérez and Alfredo Ceballos Mesa, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to the development of Cuban medicine.
The three have received the Carlos J. Finlay and Frank País Orders, for their outstanding, arduous work in the treatment of patients, research, and teaching. The first two have likewise been decorated as Heroes of Labor of the Republic of Cuba.
In an interview with Granma International, Dr. Israel Forrajero Martínez recalled his efforts developing 100 anatomical pathology departments around the country, training 400 pathologists, 900 technicians, evaluating more than 50 doctors and 60 expert specialists in this field. His resume includes membership to several international professional associations, 50 publications in scientific journals, and two books.
Dr. Forrajero is a full professor with merit at the Havana and Santo Domingo Universities of Medical Sciences, as well as a consultant, investigator, and titled academic in the Cuban Academy of Sciences. He heads the Cuban Society of Anatomical Pathology.
Dr. Orlando Vals Pérez, another prizewinner, is an expert specialist in medical imaging, a titled professor and researcher at the University of Havana School of Medical Sciences, and a member of professional radiology societies internationally.
Dr. Vals considers his fundamental contribution over the past 60 years to be the two books he has written, in which he shares his knowledge and experience in the field, though he adds, "I'm still writing."
Likewise, Dr. Alfredo Ceballos Mesa, an expert specialist in Orthopedics and Trauma, is also a full professor of merit at the University of Havana School of Medical Sciences, as well as a consultant and titled academic within the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
In his remarks, he commented on his career in orthopedics and participation in many research projects linked to the external setting of broken bones, and electrical stimulation to promote healing of fractures, as well as hip and knee replacement.
During the award ceremony, Alfredo González, deputy minister of Public Health, made special mention of accomplishments in the provinces of
La Habana, Pinar del Río, Villa Clara and Holguín, while highlighting results achieved at the Hereditary Ataxias Research and Rehabilitation Center located in Holguín; and at Havana's University of Medical Sciences, Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine, and Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital.
The deputy minister dedicated the 2016 prizes for outstanding scientific work to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, a lifelong promoter of Cuba's healthcare system, and called on all to continue his legacy over the coming years.