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At the people’s order

Covid Santiago de C ubaOur people feel especially secure knowing that, among the health care centers confronting the new coronavirus, are institutions affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), including the Dr. Joaquin Castillo Duany Military Hospital, which, since its doors opened 58 years ago, inaugurated by the then Comandante Raul Castro Ruz, serves military and civilian patients with the same dedication.

“By decision of the country’s leadership,” explains the hospital’s director, Lieutenant Colonel Doctor Abel Poulot Mendoza, “Today there is only one mission: to serve our people, by providing isolation, diagnosis and treatment for suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients, in the region that includes the provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.”

“Such a sensitive task,” he points out, “implies, more than ever, that we show, nationally and internationally, the high level of professionalism, science and humanism that characterize our hospital, and to do so, we have all conditions in place for admission and medical assistance of Cuban and foreign patients, in addition to specialized equipment and logistics in general.”


Amidst impeccable cleanliness and strict order, the facility’s wards hold 180 beds, of which 74 are designated for patients with suspicious respiratory symptoms, and persons who have recently traveled abroad or had sustained contact with travelers. Additionally, the hospital has intensive care facilities available for up to 13 patients.

Three beds are reserved for pregnant women in the emergency area, and anticipating possible births, cribs and an incubator are available. A similar number of beds have been set aside for pediatrics, and two for patients with chronic renal failure who could require hemodialysis.

The head of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Major Dr. Jacno Ferrer Castro, who attended the national coronavirus preparatory course in Havana, said that the hospital has developed a diagnostic and therapeutic protocol to guide the work of doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, clinical and microbiological laboratories in confronting the disease.

With respect to technical support, he emphasized that the ICU is fully equipped with mechanical ventilators, infusion pumps, perfusion syringes and other medical devices and supplies to care for patients in critical condition, none of which has been used to date, since far from evolving toward serious condition, all cases have responded well to treatment and have exhibited what are described as mild symptoms.

For her part, Dr. Mislay Rodriguez Garcia, deputy director of teaching, noted that among the institution’s human resources are many PhDs in Medical Sciences, specialists, MSc professionals with significant teaching and research experience, who were added to the staff in certain specialties by Public Health authorities, given the health emergency.

The three specialists at the hospital who participated in the national course for the prevention and control of Covid-19, held at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana, first offered training to hospital staff and then to personnel at medical posts providing primary care for Revolutionary Armed Forces units.

The fundamental content of this training was meant for clinical personnel on the front lines in this battle, nursing staff and those in labs and service departments, responsible for diagnosis of the disease, the taking of samples and ensuring compliance with security norms.


Valuing the established premises of this demanding mission, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Poulot Mendoza recalled that staff members were asked to express their voluntary disposition to assume the task, and everyone stepped forward, reflecting the Revolutionary Armed Forces commitment to our people, and support of the country’s leadership. It was not easy, he noted, to convince the few who, for health reasons, could not participate.

Three brigades were organized, with a majority female presence and including all medical and logistic personnel required. Each group is on duty for 14 days, without leaving the hospital, and once relieved will spend the next two weeks in quarantine, at a designated site. After that, brigade members conduct epidemiological surveillance in the community, staying at home for another 14 days, before restarting the work cycle.

“The mission is not easy,” stated Eneida Herrera Vega, a university trained civilian nurse, working in the intensive care unit, “I left my daughters, aged 13 and 17, and my 83-year-old mother, at home, but we chose this profession, indispensable to the population’s health, and we cannot betray the confidence shown in us by the FAR and the country’s leadership.”

Agreeing with her are nurse Yumileidys Antomachí Montes who thinks of her four-year-old son, along with clinical lab technicians Valentina Landuet Zapata and Yakelín Machado Millán who miss the warmth of their families, but as the head of the nursing group, Yasmany Valdés Betancourt, insists, “This is a commitment to the country and to humanity.”

A tour of “El Militar,” as the people of Santiago call the hospital, clearly reflects that far from the commotion that some might imagine, given the situation, reigning here are serenity and confidence, both in patients and staff, clearly a result of the ample dose of sensitivity and love the group offers to successfully complete the mission.

(Source: Granma)

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