Honduras: Cuban doctors save 250,000 lives

November 15, 2015

Hondurans receive care from Cuban doctors. Photo: Cuban Medical Brigade.

Cuban doctors have served more than 29 million Hondurans and saved at least 250,000 Honduran lives over the past 17 years, local media in the Central American nation said.

Since arriving in the Central American country in 1998, Cuban doctors have focused on serving rural areas with little or no access to healthcare, the Cuban Medical Brigade leader Orlando Alvarez told Honduras' La Prensa.

The Cuban Medical Brigade was initially sent to Honduras in 1998 by then-Cuban president Fidel Castro to help respond to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. The tropical storm impacted all of Central America, but hit Honduras the hardest. At least 7000 Hondurans were killed and 1.5 million left homeless.

Honduras and Cuba later agreed to lengthen the stay of Cuban health professionals to provide healthcare to underdeveloped regions.

According to Alvarez, Cuban doctors have acted in a “compassionate and altruistic” manner throughout their almost two decades of providing healthcare in Honduras.

Cuban doctors have also carried out hundreds of thousands of surgeries, examinations and other healthcare services, and offered preventative health education.

The statistics of Cuba's contribution to Honduran healthcare came as Honduras faces a healthcare crisis that has prompted a series of popular protests since last year.

Last year, the Honduran government announced $35 million in cuts to this year's national health system budget, as well as funding cuts to the country's two main public hospitals. Since then, thousands of patients, including about 32,000 HIV positive people, have suffered the impacts of drug shortages and a nurse-to-patient ratio about nine times smaller than the international standard.

In June, Honduran authorities also discovered $2 million in expired medicines in storage in the country's social security institute, simultaneously embroiled in a huge corruption scandal.

Meanwhile, Honduran nurses have denounced difficult working conditions and their inability to deliver needed care to hundreds of patients.

Activists have also criticised a government plan to decentralise national hospitals as a sign of government inefficiency and a move towards privatisation of healthcare.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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