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Apr 29, 2004

Five years of Cuban medical assistance observed

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If you’ve ever been treated at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, the three regional public hospitals or dozens of government health centres nationwide, chances are you’ve come under the care of a Cuban doctor or nurse. Today ceremonies were held in Belize City to recognize a half decade of medical assistance from our island neighbour. Patrick Jones reports from the K.H.M.H.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Five years after its first group of doctors landed in Belize, the Cuban Medical Mission continues to provide vital assistance to the country?s health care system. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Health, Henry Anderson, says it is more than just treating people when they get sick.

Henry Anderson, C.E.O., Ministry of Health

“Since 1999 to 2004, over the five years, the doctors have provided approximately nine hundred and eighty-nine thousand consultations. Most of these happened in the rural parts of the country, primary care level. And it happens in areas where before this cooperation we were unable to provide a sustained presence in terms of health care being available to the communities as and when they need it.”

“They do an epidemiological survey to understand all the risk factors in the communities that they work, and their approach is both preventative and curative. So basically what it has meant is a healthier population in those areas.”

Over a hundred doctors, nurses and technicians are scattered all over the country primarily in rural communities. While their contribution has saved G.O.B. over five million dollars, visiting Cuban Minister of International Cooperation Martha Lomas says the significance of the Cuban Medical Mission goes beyond money.

Martha Lomas, Cuban Minister of International Cooperation

“The significance for us is the compromise that all the countries of the world have, and is to help each other. From the start of the revolution one of the one of our main principles is to help our brothers and sisters around the world. We have in Cuba a richness which is not a financial thing but is something that is related to human resources, human values.” (Translated from Spanish)

Henry Anderson

“What it has enabled us to do is to offer specialist services at the hospitals at a level never before seen in the country. We have four regional hospitals, take the Southern Regional Hospital for example that never used to offer surgeries, it never used to offer paediatric care, now it offers those care. And both the public and private sectors in Belize have never been able to do that. Like with any programme, there are kinks that we constantly work on, a lot of it has to do with the doctors and the health care providers, they are in a new culture and we need to support and to make sure that their time here is good.”

Although the language barrier remains the single greatest challenge facing the visiting medical professionals, Lomas says she is satisfied with the level of dedication they continue to display.

Martha Lomas

“They are very happy. They feel that the Belizean people have acknowledged their work, and that acknowledgement is pay enough for the work that they have been doing here.”

“We care going to continue this work in Belize. Right now there are one hundred and twelve doctors, nurses, medical specialists and this contribution will continue in the future, until the people and the Belizean government decides otherwise.”

Patrick Jones, for News 5.

The five year review comes as part of the seventh annual meeting of the Belize-Cuba joint commission for economic and technical cooperation.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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