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Dec 17, 1999

Cuban doctors gather at House of Culture

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If you live in a Toledo village or have recently visited a hospital in the towns or cities you’ve probably benefited from their care. The Cuban doctors began arriving in April and since then have treated some seventy-seven thousand Belizean patients. Today they all met at the House of Culture in Belize City to compare notes… and receive a bit of Christmas cheer.

The fifty-one doctors and two nurses are posted quite literally from Hondo to Starstoon and almost everywhere in between. Many live and work in remote rural communities serving those Belizeans who in the past had little direct access to medical care. For Eduardo Garcia, posted in Toledo’s Santana Village, practicing medicine under difficult circumstances is just part of the job.

Eduardo Garcia, Doctor for Santana Village, Toledo

“Some conditions were a surprise but not all because in Cuba when you are doing college medical it’s preferably to send to the country, in the jungle and all parts of Cuba not on the city, for two years and come back and do the special. And here it’s the same. The condition is good.”

One good surprise which greeted the doctors today was a token of appreciation supplied by B.T.L. Company Chairman Lisa Shoman presented each of the Cubans with a collection of small household items, including a twenty dollar phone card to enable at least a quick call home for the holidays.

Lisa Shoman, Chairman, B.T.L.

“We thought it was important to mark the occasion that the Cuban doctors have been here for sometime. They have been working in some of the most remote areas of Belize under some of the most difficult conditions. We wanted to show some small appreciation from Belizeans for the extraordinary work that they’ve done.”

But as good as that work may be – including fourteen thousand patients attended to each month – the obvious question is: what will happen when the Cubans eventually go home? Dr. Leonardo Cuesta, the Cuban Medical Mission’s Director, believes that a parallel project to train Belizean medical practitioners will fill the gap.

Dr. Leonardo Cuesta, Head of Cuban Medical Mission

“One of the first concerns that we have about this program is the sustainability of it. At the same time that we are helping here, Cuba has offered Belize an open offer to establish medicine among the young people of Belize with a compromise to return when they finish and to work in the rural areas. At the first time, we are trying to implement together with the Belize Minister of Health a program of training the health workers and the nurses in the rural areas to try to maintain and to keep the same level of services that we are offering now in the rural areas.”

But until that day comes many Belizeans may agree that a small bag of goodies is only a symbol of the very large debt of thanks due to this very special group of medical ambassadors. Stewart Krohn for News Five.

The doctors are here under an agreement between the governments of Cuba and Belize. Facilitator for today’s meeting was House of Culture coordinator Lita Krohn.

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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