28 Seconds Later… The real Cuban hospital

Welcome back to our blog! This week we encounter the REAL Cuban hospital…

Having settled into our Viñales casa we were ready to explore.

Obviously the priority was finding meds for the clumsy one. The clinic was an absolute trek away (impractical when one is struggling with the basic act of walking) so we found out the name of a hospital which was a couple of roads away and set off.

The first time we’d gone to the international clinic back in Trinidad, we had been expecting the worst and were surprised by gleaming nurse uniforms and quaint tiled décor. So this time, we had higher hopes. But we were wrong.

It was grim. 

hospital 1

Remember those creepy zombie films with brutalist architecture and old hospitals with long, empty corridors and peeling paint? Various shades of sick green. Hard benches and flickering lights. Think the film 28 days later… In fact it was so bad, we didn’t feel comfortable taking out the camera or even sneaking a photo on our phones; so today’s images are from what very few other travellers have taken.

This is the real Cuban hospital. The hospital which technically operates for locals only, a far cry from the rhetoric of Cuba’s state-of-the-art health system. If you’re interested in reading more, click here for an insightful article investigating Cuba’s hospitals – be warned, the images are disturbing.

hospital 2 hospital 3 hospital 4

We now know what it’s like to go into a real third world hospital. We know what they smell like. And it isn’t pretty.

What you may not know is that we are both very much hypochondriacs. Antibacterial hand-gel is very much a feature of each and every day of our lives. Wet wipes abound. Elle practically acts as the pharmacy for her friendship group and Rosie is only saved from that fate by being friends with a lot of pharmacy students. This hospital was the stuff of our nightmares.

We walked in, trying not to touch anything, or breathe.

A quick chat with reception established that this was the hospital –  where we would have to have Elle’s wound cleaned. We waited in a dark hallway for someone to see us, watching a young mother with sad eyes have her prenatal check up and trying stave off our own panic attack which we felt was surely imminent. Our names were called and we walked in to the room, fighting the urge to run away that was threatening to overwhelm us with every step. A somewhat impractical urge, really, considering Elle’s inability to do anything more than hop quite fast.

Nothing short of miraculously, our doctor was a burns expert. She calmly and collectedly checked the wound, painted on some new antibacterial cleanser and wrapped it all up in a meticulously clean bandage. While the hospital itself was infested with vermin, all  the medical supplies were sterilised and separately wrapped in little squares of brown paper. Yet again, Cuba had surpassed all our expectations. If you ever find yourself in Viñales hospital ask for Damarí and give her a hug for us. She refused payment – although we were not covered by insurance to use the local hospital – and invited us to her home for follow-up treatment. Next time we find ourselves there we will find a way to repay the kindness.

Next week on our blog we encounter zombies in a cave and go horse riding. Come back for more photos and tips from our adventures in Cuba!

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