Cuba Has Great Potential for Healthy Tourism

November 9, 2017 |

By Fernando Ravsberg

Conscientious healthcare in a tropical country could be the perfect combination for patients to recharge their batteries.

HAVANA TIMES — Tourism in Cuba should be developed taking into account the permanent presence of Irma and Trump, thinking that there will always be a hurricane in the Caribbean or a president at the White House who is willing to run the locomotive of Cuba’s economy off the tracks.

The temptation to copy tourism development at other resorts that already exist in the Caribbean might seem to make sense, however, it implies competing with countries that have greater financial resources, established markets and decades of experience.

Cuba’s characteristics could be a great attraction for tourists, without the need to invest large sums of capital. Opening up all of the country’s cultural expressions to visitors could be just as important as giving them access to health facilities.

Nearly 10% of the global population suffer from kidney problems and about 50 million people need hemodialysis on a regular basis, 3 or 4 times a week. This reality limits their chances to travel as they need a dialysis center where they are traveling to.

Tourist resorts which are able to offer this treatment, in keeping with international protocols, could become recipients of these patients, many of whom travel in groups, bring their own medication and pay nearly 230 USD for each session.

Cuba can provide medical care for tourist/patients keeping with the strictest international health protocols.

Paying for hemodialysis treatment can be done in many different ways, the patient can pay directly, via medical insurance or an agreement with the Public Health system in their own country, when these cover the costs like they do in Europe.

Cuba offers these services to tourists who need them but it’s something that the world hardly knows about. Few people know that there are around fifty hemodialysis centers running across the country, with trained medical staff and referral hospitals to cover unexpected complications.

Activating all of these centers and making them available to tourism would imply spending a few thousand dollars to improve waiting rooms with TVs, reclining chairs, WIFI and air conditioning, which would also benefit Cuban patients, without affecting them because tourists prefer the night shifts anyway so they can make the most of their holidays.

In order to get fully involved in this important sector of health tourism, agreements need to made with kidney patient associations, with Health ministries and tourism companies who specifically cater for and organize holidays for these patients.

These patients are used to traveling with all of their medicine, which is prescribed by their doctor and they send ahead the date of their arrival, medical history and a serology exam results (in order to prevent hepatitis or HIV infections) in advance.

This kind of “tourist/patient” would not only help to fund Cuba’s Public Health ssystem, but would also contribute to conventional tourism as these people go on holiday just like everyone else, they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, go on excursions, travel in taxis and buy crafts.

Medical care of tourists/patients who need hemodialysis could be given using Cuban health facilities at night.

Cuba’s health system already has the most important thing it needs, qualified staff, the machines it needs and international prestige. They only have bureaucracy standing in the way; it takes hours and hours to get in touch with the medical insurance provider or they leave you sitting in a waiting room because it’s snack time.

Whoever comes to see Cuba, doesn’t want to spend a minute more than they need to in a dialysis center. Poorly coordinated transport services, lack of staff punctuality or never-ending procedures can even tarnish the best medical care.

Companies such as Fresenius, Braum or Diaverum are making a fortune with their hemodialysis clinics across the world. Why couldn’t Cuba offer the same service in the Caribbean, where these multinationals don’t have much of a presence?

Every one of these tourists/patients leaves about 800 USD more per week than the average healthy tourist. As a result, Cuba’s tourism could encompass new niches in the market and the national public health service could improve its installations and machines, without having to turn to the State budget.

The example of tourists needing hemodialysis is just one example of how the wagons that connect up to the “economic locomotive” don’t have to be dead-weight. On the contrary, they can become an incentive for a lot more visitors to get on board.

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  • Moses Patterson

    Great idea. Too bad the Castro regime is only interested in staying in power.

  • No thanks. I have already experienced too many examples where the health care needs of Cuban citizens were not met because the necessary pharmaceuticals, supplies, and talent were diverted to international markets to raise cash.

    I have paid for too much in the International Pharmacy because the necessary medicine and supplies were never available in the Peoples Pharmacy. I have had to bring too much from the US because common pharmaceuticals were never available to Cubans. I have seen too many instances where Cuban family did not receive medical care on a timely basis because doctors and equipment were prioritized for paying foreigners.

    When it comes to addressing the medical needs of the Cuban people first,
    the government really “talks the talk” but sure does not “walk the
    walk” when foreign money is involved.

    • emagicmtman

      Bob, have you even read Fernando’s article? Much of it is concerned with dialysis patients BRINGING THEIR OWN MEDS, rather than relying on the People’s or International Pharmacies. Under U.S. government pressure, of course, U.S. insurance companies would probably not pay for such treatments, even though it would save them a bundle. Still, many patients paying everything up front, out of their own pockets, would, save, err, “bigly.” A friend without insurance (his so-called “independent contractor” job wouldn’t offer it, and on his own it was too expensive), went all the way to Bumrumgrad Hospital in Bankock to be operated on for a melanoma on his left arm. The successful operation cost maybe 15 to 20% of what it would have cost him in back in N.Y.C. Since Cuba has the resources for providing these services, and since the government could earn hard currency through offering these services, which it could then reinvest in their medical system, continuing to develop medical tourism is a no-brainer–especially since it is unlikely that we will offer a “Medicare For All” system up here in the immediate–or even mid-term–future. (Likewise, adequate gun control is a non-starter. For years–even decades–we will be reading about, and seeing–monthly–and even weekly–mass murders. Our only “solution” here, for the time being, is NOT to be in the proverbial “wrong place at the wrong time!” The psychic energy to do anything about such problems has been drained. We are in a state of spiritual catatonia. In the meantime, Cuba should cash in on our dysfunctionality.

      • emagicmtnan: I had a dear friend in Cuba die of what should have been an early diagnosed easily treatable cancer. Her diagnosis and subsequent treatment was constantly delayed because of unavailability of oncologists and radiation therapy as they were being diverted to generate revenues.

        I currently have another dear friend with undiagnosed internal problems. After waiting 6 weeks for a ultrasound, they did a quickie and declared she was not pregnant. No surprise as she had a tubal ligation five years ago. Now they tell us it will be another 6 weeks before they can do the ultrasound they should have done in the first place.

        Cuba simply does not have the resources to provide these services as too much of them are being diverted to generate revenues. Be a part time Cuba resident rather than a sporadic visitor and you will see the difference between reality and a some imagined utopia.

        • emagicmtman

          Sorry about your friends, however, due to “capitation” many such mistakes are made by H.M.O’s here, too. I suppose the difference being that here if you–or your family, are fortunate enough to hire a good lawyer
          you can recoup a substantial sum. One example I know: a girl, a teen-aged twin (her twin was a brother) was brought in several times her local health center in Greenfield, MA. She never got to see her doctor, but was always fobbed off on a nurse practitioner. Instead of the “chronic bronchitis” diagnosis, instead, she was suffering from pneumonia–and she died. Alas! The mother poor and didn’t have the resources to hire a lawyer.

          • Joseph Marti

            All you two can offer is anecdotal – a standard so pathetic not worthy as “evidence” in any half-legitimate debate.

          • emagicmtman

            As Tovarich Stalin used to say: “A single death, a tragedy. A million deaths, a statistic!” All those anecdotes mount up. Every day there are opioid OD’s in my hometown. Every few weeks the local paper reports how a particular overdose has effected a family who survived. Thanks to Big Pharma pushing these opioids, we have lots of “anecdotes”.

          • Joseph Marti

            Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, can find personal stories (anecdotes) to support a point. If you want to have a serious discussion, please consider being more considerate of others’ intelligence.