Carlos Ricardo Pérez Díaz, director of the Cuban medical brigade – part of the Henry Reeve Contingent specializing in natural disasters and large-scale epidemics – currently working in Atacama, Chile, agreed to respond to some questions from Granma International:
Working as a resident in Havana and Internal Medicine specialist for over 15 years, Pérez Díaz noted that the brigade is coping well. “To date there have been no significant outbreaks of infectious diseases, while respiratory illnesses are the most prevalent due to the large amount of dust in the air, in addition to cold temperatures at night. The most common ailments are hypertension, diabetes and those related to the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland.”
Have you participated in other non-medical related tasks?
At the beginning of the mission we were helping neighbors remove the mud from their homes, in order to give us the opportunity to provide medical consulations to these people and thus accelerate the treatment process.
We are working in the Pintores de Chile community in Copiapó. At a second stage we were setting up our field tents in the El Salado community, where we stayed for 10 days. The rest of the time we were providing medical care to the community.
How have Chilean professionals, national or international medical organizations, and graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) supported the brigade?
On April 9, we received Dr.Carmen Castillo, Chilean minister of health; and Communist Party member, Lautaro Carmona; accompanied by Cuban ambassador in Chile, Adolfo Curbelo, and other local officials. They explained the outlook of the situation in the region.
We presented a proposal to them for a community work strategy focusing on epidemiological care. Later we integrated ourselves into the locality’s health system, collaborating with personnel from the epidemiology department. We are working with colleagues affiliated with the Diego de Almagro Community Hospital.
In n addition, we have received support from ELAM graduates since the days immediately following the disaster. They are working voluntarily and making an extraordinary effort, sometimes traveling hundreds of kilometers from the south of the country and requesting vacation time from their jobs.
How has the population reacted to the Cuban doctors?
We have received expressions of gratitude and love from the population in every locality we have worked in. The people have been very hospitable and are always attentive to our needs, so as to provide us with an appropriate solution, above all, so we don’t get cold, as that is the type of weather which most affects us.
We have been working on the ground, going from house to house in every community. Our aim is to complete a detailed investigation of the main health problems affecting inhabitants. We are supported by the leaders and experts of the region, and are acquiring comprehensive information from medical files. Likewise we are formulating action plans in order to provide an adequate solution to every situation.
All aspects of the work and cooperation carried out, both in regards to the contribution of the authorities and the population, have been positive; the members of the brigade are professionals, with a great humanitarian consciousness, are motivated, disciplined and committed to the task we have undertaken, we are a large family in which we all support and cooperate with each other.
The most striking thing is seeing the number of destroyed buildings; and how people who have lost everything or almost everything, continue to work tirelessly to repair their homes or try to salvage a few personal items.
What is the situation in regards to communication with Cuban authorities and family members?
Communication with family members via email and telephone has been continual. Efforts are made to facilitate communication on special occasions, such as Mother’s Day which was celebrated recently, or a relation’s birthday.
Communication with the Cuban health authorities has been constant, every day we receive information from the central unit for medical collaboration with the personnel from the institution and the Ministry of Public Health expressing continual concern for the families of the collaborators and the health of every member of the brigade.