Philippines seeks to adopt Cuba’s public healthcare system

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Cuban healthcare systemNewly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte seems to have developed a fancy for the healthcare system in Cuba and will send a medical fact-finding team to the socialist Caribbean island to find out if and how the model can be adopted in the Philippines.

During his administration’s first cabinet meeting, Duterte said that he seeks to replicate the success of the Cuban health care model, particularly the medical coverage of people living in rural areas, the availability and affordability of medicines and the preventive approach of the system.

“They have a good practice there,” Duterte said, adding that “this has something to do with human welfare.”

To fund such new general healthcare system in the Philippines, Duterte is mulling to transfer the $740-million annual earnings of state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, which runs casinos and gambling clubs in the country and is the largest contributor of revenue to the government after the Tax and Customs Authority, to the Department of Health. This could fund essential healthcare and the pharmaceutical needs of Filipinos, particularly the poor.

Cuba’s healthcare model

The Cuban health system is recognised worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and economic sanctions imposed by the US for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.

In terms of having healthy people, the Cuban health service outperforms other low- and medium-income countries and, in some cases, outperforms much richer ones too. Despite spending a fraction of what the US spends on healthcare  – the World Bank reports Cuba spends $431 per head per year compared with $8,553 in the US -, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

Healthcare in Cuba is free and universal, enshrined in the Cuban constitution as a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the state. And the foundation of Cuba’s preventative health care model is at primary care level, with family doctors overseeing the health of those who live around a clinic or a neighbourhood medical center. They, along with a nurse and support from visiting specialists, monitor closely the health and wellbeing of every single Cuban.

Key to the prevention model is the annual health assessment, a full health check-up which every single Cuban undergoes, often at their homes.

Cuba has 90,000 doctors for it 11-million population. That’s eight for every 1,000 citizens. In comparison, the US has 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people and the UK 2.7 per 1,000, according to the World Bank.

The infant mortality rate in Cuba is 4.2 per 1,000 births, lower than in the US and among the lowest in the world.

Medical workers are often believed to be Cuba’s most important export, having served in countries all over the world and in particular in Latin America, Africa and, more recently, in Oceania. To date, the country sent over 300,000 health workers on missions to over 150 countries, and its research-based healthcare sector also created vaccines against meningitis-B, hepatitis-B and dengue fever.

The World Health Organization has praised Cuba’s healthcare system for being efficient and attaining universal health coverage. In 2015, Cuba posted its life expectancy at 78.45 years on average, at rank 59 worldwide and just slightly less than in the US (rank 43). In the Philippines, average life expectancy is just 68.96 (rank 160).

However, according to critics, the Cuban healthcare system also has its shortcomings, which includes dilapidated facilities and outdated medical devices, lack of essential drugs, no privacy for medical data, no right to choose a doctor or refuse treatment, and no right to sue for malpractice. The universal system seems also to have created a two-tier healthcare sector were senior party members and paying health tourists receive better medical attention. Other critics also claim that the statistics released by Cuba’s health ministry cannot be verified nor validated.

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Newly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte seems to have developed a fancy for the healthcare system in Cuba and will send a medical fact-finding team to the socialist Caribbean island to find out if and how the model can be adopted in the Philippines. During his administration’s first cabinet meeting, Duterte said that he seeks to replicate the success of the Cuban health care model, particularly the medical coverage of people living in rural areas, the availability and affordability of medicines and the preventive approach of the system. "They have a good practice there," Duterte said, adding that "this has...

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cuban healthcare systemNewly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte seems to have developed a fancy for the healthcare system in Cuba and will send a medical fact-finding team to the socialist Caribbean island to find out if and how the model can be adopted in the Philippines.

During his administration’s first cabinet meeting, Duterte said that he seeks to replicate the success of the Cuban health care model, particularly the medical coverage of people living in rural areas, the availability and affordability of medicines and the preventive approach of the system.

“They have a good practice there,” Duterte said, adding that “this has something to do with human welfare.”

To fund such new general healthcare system in the Philippines, Duterte is mulling to transfer the $740-million annual earnings of state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, which runs casinos and gambling clubs in the country and is the largest contributor of revenue to the government after the Tax and Customs Authority, to the Department of Health. This could fund essential healthcare and the pharmaceutical needs of Filipinos, particularly the poor.

Cuba’s healthcare model

The Cuban health system is recognised worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and economic sanctions imposed by the US for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.

In terms of having healthy people, the Cuban health service outperforms other low- and medium-income countries and, in some cases, outperforms much richer ones too. Despite spending a fraction of what the US spends on healthcare  – the World Bank reports Cuba spends $431 per head per year compared with $8,553 in the US -, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

Healthcare in Cuba is free and universal, enshrined in the Cuban constitution as a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the state. And the foundation of Cuba’s preventative health care model is at primary care level, with family doctors overseeing the health of those who live around a clinic or a neighbourhood medical center. They, along with a nurse and support from visiting specialists, monitor closely the health and wellbeing of every single Cuban.

Key to the prevention model is the annual health assessment, a full health check-up which every single Cuban undergoes, often at their homes.

Cuba has 90,000 doctors for it 11-million population. That’s eight for every 1,000 citizens. In comparison, the US has 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people and the UK 2.7 per 1,000, according to the World Bank.

The infant mortality rate in Cuba is 4.2 per 1,000 births, lower than in the US and among the lowest in the world.

Medical workers are often believed to be Cuba’s most important export, having served in countries all over the world and in particular in Latin America, Africa and, more recently, in Oceania. To date, the country sent over 300,000 health workers on missions to over 150 countries, and its research-based healthcare sector also created vaccines against meningitis-B, hepatitis-B and dengue fever.

The World Health Organization has praised Cuba’s healthcare system for being efficient and attaining universal health coverage. In 2015, Cuba posted its life expectancy at 78.45 years on average, at rank 59 worldwide and just slightly less than in the US (rank 43). In the Philippines, average life expectancy is just 68.96 (rank 160).

However, according to critics, the Cuban healthcare system also has its shortcomings, which includes dilapidated facilities and outdated medical devices, lack of essential drugs, no privacy for medical data, no right to choose a doctor or refuse treatment, and no right to sue for malpractice. The universal system seems also to have created a two-tier healthcare sector were senior party members and paying health tourists receive better medical attention. Other critics also claim that the statistics released by Cuba’s health ministry cannot be verified nor validated.

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