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Three and a half days of orientation began yesterday for eight doctors and 28 nurses in the latest group of Cuban medical personnel recruited by the Health Ministry to join TT’s public health sector.

Among them are doctors specialising in ear, nose and throat, dermatology and nephrology. The work done by their predecessors has prompted calls for some doctors to be “brought back” after their contracts ended, disclosed Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan who commended the Cubans for displaying customer service.

Addressing the opening ceremony at Capital Plaza hotel, Port-of-Spain, Khan said the Cuban doctors and nurses who citizens asked to be “brought back” gave “24-hour service in some regards in some districts.” Khan said the Cubans who have worked in TT usually show care, concern and hard work. There are currently 170 Cuban medical personnel (58 doctors and 112 nurses) working in TT. “The Cuban doctors and nurses who have been here before have laid a ground work and work ethic that I think has begun to be emulated by our doctors,” Khan said. The major difference will be the language and the “Trinidadian English,” he said. He hoped locals would take the opportunity to learn Spanish from the Cubans. With the ministry’s focus on improving primary health, Khan said he may be travelling to Cuba next month with a team to get more doctors for health centres. “So I can open my health offices, the external offices 24 hours seven days a week,” he said. Khan has indicated an interest in seeing Cuba’s institute of sport medicine since he wanted to develop this specialised area in TT.

“TT has a dire need for more and more health professionals and we thank the Cuban people for coming and assisting us in that human resource development,” he said.

Khan announced that the ten Intensive Care Unit nurses in the group would be assigned to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. “There are eight to ten beds not being used because there are no nurses. Now that we have nurses there will be less outsourcing of intensive care patients,” he said.

He explained to the Cubans that due to the staff shortage patients were being sent to private facilities and the Health Ministry was paying a lot for this. “I am also in the process of working out an arrangement with the private sector to decrease the prices so hopefully we can have movement (reduced costs),” he said.

Khan told the Cubans that some of them may be sent to Tobago to work. Ambassador Humberto Rivero Rosario said 31 of the 36 new medical personnel had experience from working in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean not only in government-to-government cooperation agreements but through humanitarian work, such as in Indonesia following the tsunami and the cholera outbreak in Haiti. He said they came to increase the level of health care in TT.

Rosario said the relatives of some medical personnel were affected by hurricane Sandy and hoped none of the 11 persons killed in Cuba were their family members. As the country recovered from Sandy, he said Cuban medical personnel were providing their experience and knowledge to TT. “By doing that we are honouring the teaching of our national hero Jose Marti,” Rosario said, referring to the Cuban revolutionary, a leading advocate in the country’s independence from Spain.

Speaking on behalf of the medical personnel, Dr Rolando Zequeira said they were committed to work in the local health system. “Our purpose is none other than helping the entire community by taking care of citizens in the field of health. We hope we are going to be capable in the fight to face all the diseases but also, teaching prevention.”


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