Chikungunya in Cuba

What We Don’t Talk About

What We Don’t Talk About / Regina Coyula
Posted on July 30, 2014

My husband has dengue fever. Or chikunguya, what the difference is can
only be known after a long-awaited test. We needed to find our family
doctor because he kept going from house to house inquiring of people
with fever or other suspicious symptoms. The doctor, after a physical
examination and posing a series of questions, filled out a paper and
referred him to Fajardo Hospital.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait in line for this.”

At 11:30 Alcides went to the hospital with one of our daughters who
arrived at just the right time. I stayed at home cooking, so they could
eat lunch after returning from the hospital.

At four in the afternoon, my brother arrived and took me to Fajardo. At
that hour the shift doctor still had not seen the urgent test results.
Alcides had to wait for a long time because the line that he “didn’t
have to wait in” was much bigger than the line for people who arrived
for other reasons. Finally, it was his turn. A young Guinean doctor with
enviable patience attended each case, filled out a stack of papers and
still had the Hippocratic spirit to be friendly.

I signed a paper to take responsibility for Alcides. What worries the
doctors (at the hospital as well as at the neighborhood clinic) is that
his platelets are very low and his leucocytes very high, but I’d rather
go to the clinic every day to have the follow-up analysis than to leave
him in the hospital. I don’t like anything about the Emergency Room,
disorganized and lacking in hygiene, and I have no reason to suppose
that the rest of the hospital would be any different.

In the waiting room the patients never stop complaining. Why if you come
with a referral directly from your clinic do you have to repeat the same
procedures with the doctor on duty instead of going directly to the lab?
No one knows what the “guidelines” say. Later, there were only two
doctors and they were overwhelmed. Those missing must be on overseas
missions like Barrio Adentro or Mas Medicos; to the claim of our being a
“Medical Powerhouse” should be added: … “for export.”

Having a case of dengue fever in the house isn’t news. The list of
patients in the four surrounding blocks fills two pages in a school
notebook. “We haven’t found the source,” my family doctor tells me with
concern. I comment, “They shouldn’t focus so much on individual homes,
rather they should clean up the neglected lot on the corner, and if they
haven’t found the source, there they’re going to find all those who
haven’t appeared yet.

As the situation is worsening (I would speak of an epidemic, but the
health authorities seem not to have received “the orientation”) the
priority is the source. Yesterday they came and fumigated and asked
about home sources (if you have vases, plants in water, drinking bowls
for pets, water deposits in the house, and I already know the list by
heart and can recite it). Later the supervisor showed up to ask about
the program to check for sources in homes; later the supervisor’s boss
came by to ask about the program to check for sources in homes.

And at the lush wilderness on the corner? No one asks about the sources

28 July 2014

Source: What We Don’t Talk About / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba –

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