October 9th, 2009 at 11:02 · Clasificados en Sin Evasión
Seventeen days alternating as my grandson’s companion at the Pediatric Hospital Juan Manuel Márquez in Marianao was the exercise that confirmed, firsthand, the sorry state of health facilities in Cuba and the poor hygiene and sanitary conditions in them. Make note that, according to the testimony of patients and of their companions with whom I had contact, when compared with others, the Marianao Pediatric is a true paradise: “You don’t know what a bad hospital is like!” As you can see, the philosophy of some ordinary Cubans has devolved radically: it is no longer about looking forward, but backwards, so that, instead of aspiring to be better, they simply settle for “not being worse”, which is, paradoxically, the worst of positions.
The Juan Manuel Márquez has a nice façade, that is, as pretty as a typically socialist architecture façade can be. But at least it is carefully painted, there are no broken glass panes, and it has showy green areas that shade the spaces around the entrance, parking lot, and surrounding areas. Its external appearance is, therefore, friendly and pleasant, which influences its approval. The pavilion for in-patients and their companions is a very different issue. Let’s save the sordid details of the deterioration of the construction of its interior, the dirt floors, the large and robust cockroaches, the darkness of the stairs, the deserted halls, the many rickety doors and windows, the spots in the lobbies where tiles have fallen off the walls, the grime on the walls and ceilings, and let’s move on to the priorities of the enforced stay that I experienced in the orthopedic ward (4th floor), where the professional and humane quality of most of the medical staff contrasts with the unsanitary conditions of its surroundings, plus the lack of comfort for patients and companions.
Running water is available twice a day, due to disciplined savings measures, but water runs undisciplined from the pantry sink’s broken faucet, from the defective tank on the midway terrace, and from the occasional leaky shower head. Due to the same savings concerns, TV sets cannot be turned on before one p.m. As a foot note, the TV sets belong to the patients, who bring them in from home, as well as fans, buckets for bathing, containers for heating the food they get from their respective homes (since the meals the hospital provides are indigestible) and even some medications as basic as acetaminophen tablets, which are not available at the wards.
The shortage of cleaning equipment and products contributes to the generalized filth, as do the frequent backups of showers and toilets, the pantry waste collectors without adequate covers, the deposit of uneaten food debris and empty containers in the baskets that are not picked up regularly enough, and the accumulation of feces in the toilets during the “dry” intervals between periods when there is running water and the next. Add to that the infestation of tiny cockroaches that live in the folds of the inner compartments of the two refrigerators in the room, moving familiarly over the containers that are kept there, and you will have a rough idea of the prevailing hygiene.
The truth is, folks, that only when our medical discharge arrives and we exit from the hospital can we consider ourselves almost safe.
1 .- Façade of the Marianao Pediatric Hospital, built at the initiative of the “Undefeated One” and opened with great fanfare during the crisis of the 90’s, Reference Center for Multiple Trauma.
2 .- Condition of the shower for cubicles 5 and 6 of the orthopedic ward. The back-ups are frequent. It is unusual that this drain has retained its grate.
3 .- One of the two toilets for cubicles 5 and 6. This is the “clean one” because its flushing mechanism works. Note the condition of the floor.
4 .- Mid-way fourth floor roof terrace. The constant water spills from the water tank in the picture have contributed to weeds other plants around it. In addition to the garbage that accumulate in the area, buckets of dirty water are routinely emptied in this area after cleaning the top floors,