The Cuban state enterprise Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos, S.A., has a wide-ranging portfolio of services and products including medical assistance services; academic training and classes for healthcare professionals; wellbeing and quality of life programs; and organization of thematic events.
Fransisco Arquijo Artea from Mexico, traveled to Havana to undergo surgery on his gallbladder and neck. During his stay at the Cira García International Clinic, his wife Ramona Lozada Ochoa opted for a medical check-up. Meanwhile, Georgina Tacuri Castillo from Ecuador is funding her son’s medical studies in Cuba. All contacted the Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos, S.A (CSMC).
This Cuban state enterprise is a mercantile society, charged with managing the negotiation and contracting of health care services to treat patients in clinics within the country, and the contracting of specialists or groups of professionals to work abroad, Dr. Yamila de Armas Águila, company vice president, told Granma International.
The family medicine specialist added that the company’s portfolio of services and products includes a variety of areas in which Cuba operates commercially: medical assistance services; academic training and classes for healthcare professionals; wellbeing and quality of life programs; and organization of thematic events.
“We have proposed for ourselves the construction of a socialist enterprise, with 100% Cuban capital, to commercialize options available in the healthcare sector.” Dr. De Armas said, explaining that the entity was founded only five years ago, although it has been known around the world for 20 as Cuba’s Servicios Médicos Internacionales company, an organization which offered medical assistance to patients from other countries. Today, the range of these services has been expanded to provide a greater variety and designed in accordance with clients’ desires.
To do so, the company makes available the entire network of hospitals, equipment, and professionals in Cuba, with experience accumulated over 50 years in diverse collaboration projects with governments, organizations and city administrations, currently in 67 countries around the world, with almost 50,000 Cuban healthcare workers providing services.
Yamila de Armas Águila, also an adjunct professor at the University of Havana’s School of Medical Sciences, explains that those requesting medical assistance have the option of selecting the Cuban city and institution where they wish to be treated, “If a person would like to have gastric bypass surgery, they can request Dr. Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Hospital in Cienfuegos, in order to visit the city and discover another kind of tourism. Likewise, if he or she should decide to come to the northern keys or another resort area, and needs a medical check-up, any healthcare facility in the country can provide it.”
Currently, the company has developed more than 250 health programs which are tailored to the patients’ needs, and conceived on the basis of the most common requests. Patients report that in their countries of origin, adequate resources are not always available, and they must occasionally wait long periods of time to undergo surgery or receive treatment.
“We offer competitive prices, with quality as our distinguishing trademark,” emphasized Dr. De Armas, “Those who decide to come to Cuba, will never be without the warmth of the attending doctor, the hand on their shoulder, the sensation that they are not alone despite being away from family. We offer high quality medicine, but warm, humane, tender and sensitive medicine. It is not about giving medication, but rather treating a person who is ill.”
As an added benefit, initial consultations are provided in several languages including Spanish, English, French and Portuguese; in addition to information regarding all activities within contracted programs; accompaniment from arrival to departure; coordination of selected excursions and visits; among other services included within the personalized medical treatment package, Dr. De Armas explained.
At the same time, the company has the responsibility to provide services to international visitors during their stay on the island. For this purpose, consultation clinics have been located in hotels and the country’s principal tourist destinations: Varadero, Santa Lucía, Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Río and Holguín, according to the doctor.
She added “Very close to the tourists, often unperceived, are health personnel responsible for quality control of medical attention, as well as hygienic and epidemiological vigilance within tourist facilities. Visitors have access to international clinics equipped with diagnostic tools, and to the comprehensive medical emergencies system.”
Dr. De Armas explained that academic training in Cuba is very much in demand, since the country has developed a great deal of prestige in the study of medical specialties, linking theory with research and the treatment of patients, beginning in the first year. The young professionals who graduate from Cuba’s medical schools develop a humanist vocation, and often go on to lead public health systems in their countries of origin.
Academic services include attractive study programs for mid-level technicians in a variety of fields, and university degrees in Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, and eight areas of medical technology, at under and post-graduate levels. Postgraduate options include a broad range of short courses, training plans, internships, and certificate programs, masters, and doctorates, as well as specialization in 50 clinical, surgical, diagnostic, public health and biomedical fields, at Cuba’s 13 universities of medical sciences.
Dr. De Armas concluded, “Our organization emerged as an idea of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, with the purpose of organizing, coordinating a series of medical business options, and becoming an important part of the economy. Today we are adjusting the enterprise structure to the changes taking place in society, connected to the updating of Cuba’s economic model.”
Agreeing with Dr. De Almas is Iliana Reyes Álvarez, head of Sales and Operations, who defines this department as the entrance door through which all kinds of requests in the different categories of services offered by the company are processed and coordinated.
She points out the department is composed of a group of doctors with general medicine backgrounds, who are familiar with the strengths of all the services available in Cuba’s public health system. Patients do not approach a single institution, where they could obtain a limited number of services, but rather the reservations center which can suggest using the best facilities in the country to address their particular condition, Reyes explained.
Patients receive medical advisement from doctors with comprehensive training, who have mastered the world’s principal languages to facilitate communication, as well a number of necessary tools to serve those from other countries, in terms of orientation, who will welcome them at the airport, currency exchange issues, financial channels, etc. This department manages all of the details regarding transfers, tickets, immigration documents, legal paperwork to support a traveler seeking medical attention in Cuba.
“Our services are conceived with a commercial character, but not a mercantilist character,” Iliana Reyes insists. We seek the most beneficial (options) for the patient, without the desire to obtain greater income. There is not a single price, not in medical assistance or academic services. The price is pretty close to that of the treatments provided, and is adjusted with the consent of the afflicted individual. We provide personalized programs commercially, in accordance with the interests of the patient or student.”
As for financial channels, the company is open to payments via existing mechanisms available around the world, such as credit cards, cash, checks, plus direct bank transfers between banks, or from the client to the company. When obstacles exist in this arena, the use of third parties is recommended. The deposit is made before the service is initiated or by agreement. These are facilitated by financial entities, patients associations, religious institutions, and those of other kinds.
The expert emphasized that among the best-received programs are those addressing neurological issues, orthopedics – especially spinal, and surgery, stating, “We are able to assume any type of procedure, be it minimal access or one of advanced technology performed internationally.”
Patients arrive accompanied by family members, and caretaking programs are designed for them, along with trips, excursions, and medical attention which could include check-ups, cosmetic procedures, massage, exercise, etc. Childcare can be arranged at institutions which, in addition to watching children, can offer stimulating, pedagogical activities.
Another much-demanded program is addiction recovery, since the anti-drug methods used in Cuba have produced positive results for the afflicted. Spanish as well as English speaking patients are provided a quality rehabilitation program to end their consumption of toxic substances.
The Aging and Health Research Center, also known as the Centro Iberoamericano de la Tercera Edad (Cited), offers quality of life programs for older adults, including international patients, providing evaluation of problems with dissimilar causes, such as memory, gait and balance, for example. Cosmetic surgery is also available.
María Josefa Simón Díaz, head of these services and a geriatrics-gerontology specialist, told Granma International that elderly patients are assessed by psychologists, social workers, a variety of specialists, and physical therapists, who propose comprehensive treatment, not just for specific ailments, with the purpose of improving quality of life and healthy longevity.
“We have had the satisfaction of many patients returning after their first treatment. They bring along a relative or acquaintance,” she said, “Generally, we do an evaluation and a second intervention. When they leave, we make a series of recommendations, and offer the possibility of follow-up with direct communication via telephone or email. For some, we make (further) appointments within three to six months, in accordance with their ailment. Individualized packages are created, based on the medical history.”
Dr. Mario Lozada Chinea, who performs reconstructive throat, breast, abdomen, thigh, and arm surgery, as well as liposuction, adds his opinion, asserting that a person is as young as he or she feels, based on vitality and the ability to function on a day to day basis, saying, “Any repair of the body that can be performed to maintain aesthetics, or improve quality of life, is very important, for men as well as women.”
Several medical specialists conduct a comprehensive evaluation of patients, including previous illnesses, allergic reactions, and clinical history, with the purpose of reaching a collective opinion of the risks and benefits presented by any surgery, to recommend the best option. Thus surgeries are performed in a safe environment, without risks to the patient’s health.
Once a surgical procedure is decided upon, be it minimal access or not, hospitalization is recommended to prepare for the operation and facilitate post-surgery observation, given the possibility of complications, such as infection or unexpected bleeding. Once a patient is released, advice on follow-up care is provided, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical attention in the event of any adverse reaction, and telephone or electronic communication is maintained.
Everyone agrees that the company – Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos S.A. – is able and willing to collaborate toward improving health indicators in other countries around the world, similar to those enjoyed by Cubans today.