CARACAS.— Although he doesn’t work directly with patients, Pastor Vasallo Palomo is among the more than 21,000 Cuban health collaborators who every day gain the gratitude of Venezuelans.
Together with the 381 Electromedicine specialists that he leads, he guarantees the functioning of the more than 52,800 pieces of equipment – 350 of which are state-of-the-art technology – that support the work of Cuban doctors.
“My team is tireless, we work any time day or night. We have biomedical engineers – a purely clinical specialty, aimed at maintaining health equipment – and graduates in Electromedicine trained at the Health universities, to raise the capacity of the technical personnel already working in our workshops,” explained the leader of this specialty within the Cuban Medical Mission to Venezuela.
Personnel trained in factories, in high technology, laboratory and imaging equipment, form this team. The group also has comprehensive electromedical personnel. This broad human capital, responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing medical equipment and devices in the 572 Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (CDI), 586 Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers (SRI), 35 High Technology Centers ( CAT) and 18 ophthalmological centers in which Cuban collaborators offer their services, is mobilized according to need.
They perform well when faced with a challenge: the technical availability of devices stands at 98.78%, despite the fact that even in Venezuela, Cuban personnel can not escape the impact of the U.S. blockade.
“It has really damaged our activity, mainly with the Phillips brand. At one time, a group of monitors that we had installed became completely obsolete because the parts that we needed for that technology never arrived. Right now, the most affected devices are also from this firm, as we are unable to acquire parts in the market, due to the blockade against Cuba,” Vasallo explained.
Challenges nourish revolutions, so Cuba’s response has been to perfect its system to acquire through different suppliers, and donations, the spare parts required for the equipment our doctors use in Venezuela. Cuba has made investments of 1,500,000 dollars for these resources directed to Venezuela.
“CARING” FOR DEVICES
One morning at the María Genoveva Guerrero Ramos Comprehensive Health Center (CSI), in the parish of Montalbán, Caracas, I managed to “put a face to” two of these young specialists, who trained in factories in third countries before coming to work in Venezuela for two years. Their job is to install, maintain, and “cure” any technical hitches with the new devices.
Biomedical engineer Maidelis de la Caridad Sáez Jenkins, for example, arrived with the task of presenting a new “co-worker” in the CSI: the Spin 200E clinical chemistry analyzer, which she had become familiar with in Spain, during a 15-day course.
“After the course, as we had the goal of installing this equipment here, I came on the mission. For six months, I have been working on the installation of the 22 analyzers that our country has provided for Cuban Medical Mission’s work, replacing others that are already obsolete due to lack of parts and reagents in the international market,” Maidelis explained.
She immediately commented on the progress that substitution implies: “This equipment analyzes 200 samples per hour, has the advantage of an open system to use reagents from any other firm that commercializes automatic analyzers, and has two discs, each with 40 positions, both for reagents and for samples.”
The new analyzer – automated and conducive to the work of lab technicians – performs high priority and urgent processes using serum, urine and faeces samples, and can perform tasks related to clinical chemistry, such as measurements of glycemia, creatinine, uric acid, albumin, urea, cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose.
Maidelis “sells it” another way: “Yes, it is one of the best that has come onto market. Its cost? It’s high, but with it we are going to further improve the service for the Venezuelan people.”
The same path was followed by Rafael Hernández Liriano, a graduate in Electromedicine, who traveled to Panama for training. He assembled and maintains a Cobas E411 immunological analyzer in Venezuela.
“Unlike the previous equipment, this allows the reference data of each of the reagents of the samples that it processes to be updatable. So, as new tests ordered by specialists emerge, those parameters can be updated,” he explained.
On the other hand, the brand new device features important electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic advances compared to its predecessor. According to Hernández, the analyzer performs complex thyroid tests and other specific examinations in the area of chemical immunology, provided at no cost to Venezuelan patients.
This young man doesn’t need to sport a white coat in order to feel like a healer: “With our engineering support, we save lives, because the quality of health services depends on us. We are the doctors... of the medical equipment.”
TECNOLOGY AND CARE
Yaimí Valdivia Gil, a young doctor and Comprehensive General Medicine specialist from Sancti Spiritus, confirmed the importance of this solidarity work. As an educational advisor in the CSI, she noted that this technical equipment offers better working conditions and improved quality and results.
“Every day, these devices perform tests for some 80 patients, which improves our care and benefits their health. With them, there is increased reliability when evaluating test results, to reach better diagnoses and treatments for patients,” she argued.
Valdivia highlighted the communication between doctors, engineers, and graduates about the central concern of their work in Venezuela: the improved health of the people. “We work together, we combine our knowledge with the aim of improving what we do here every day,” she stated, before adding that patient satisfaction is palpable.
At the age of 28, and undertaking her first internationalist mission, Dr. Valdivia summarized her task: that all the people of Venezuela feel the support of Cuba. That aspiration is strengthened every time a Cuban technician sets up a new device.
“I am proud to see that together we improve medical services. The care of our doctors is on a par with the best devices. And such love always achieves great things,” she concluded.