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Ignorance about Cuban health, from someone who liked Sicko

by Nick Fredman

For what's it worth I just sent the following to the Sydney Morning Herald feedback address, and a shorter version to its letters page. Joaquin Bustelo on the Marxmail list earlier pointed to the Reuters report cited, though it no longer appears available at the Scientific American address he gave.

In an article on Michael Moore's new documentary Sicko, Helen Barlow claims that Moore "spoils" his Guantanamo Bay stunt by "venturing on to Communist Cuba where the Americans receive top-class treatment, which is hardly available to every Cuban" (Metro, August 3, p. 5).

This unsubstantiated claim is profoundly ignorant. Numerous medical authorities including the the World Heath Organisation have recognised that health indicators in Cuba, such as the number of doctors per capita and infant mortality rates, rival much richer countries and beat the US on some scores and that Cuba is a world leader in family medicine, preventative care, bio-technology and the incorporation of traditional knowledge into health care.

The Reuters report cited below repeats common but again unsubstantiated claims about a two-tier system (the only "evidence" there being claims by a single doctor who has defected - hardly an objective and ethical source given he fled an aid assignment in Zimbabwe for a lucrative US career). But more to the point it makes clear that the clinic Moore visited was an ordinary clinic for ordinary citizens.

"At the Havana clinic where Moore's American patients received free check-ups in March for respiratory problems and bone fractures suffered at Ground Zero, Ivonne Torres reads a Buddhist text as she waits for an appointment. 'The attention is pretty good, but it was a million times better six years ago, when we always saw the same doctor,' said Torres, who suffers from tachycardia". Source

Moore's Cuban excursion spoilt nothing, rather it generated further evidence that socialised medicine is vastly superior to the free market. Barlow should do a bit of research before relying on her prejudices or, I suspect, the congenital hostility of the US media towards Cuba reflected in US reviews of Sicko.

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