Country Reports - Cuba

Cuban doctors asked to help at Fermanagh hospital

August 2023

Country Reports - Cuba

Cuban doctors asked to help at Fermanagh hospital

August 2023

A council has requested help from the Cuban government to fill healthcare roles at a hospital in County Fermanagh.

 The Cuban embassy in London responded positively to the request from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

 Emergency general surgery was temporarily suspended at the Southwest Acute Hospital (SWAH) in Enniskillen last November due to staffing numbers.

The Western Trust is responsible for recruitment at the hospital.

Cuba has long been renowned for its medical diplomacy, sending thousands of its staff on healthcare missions around the world.

 The country's medical staff are known for delivering medical assistance following natural disasters.

A letter sent from the council in January asked "if the Henry Reeve Brigade" - a body of medical professionals set up by the Cuban government to provide international aid - "could provide assistance to the hospital so that it can meet its required staffing standards".

 As first reported by the Fermanagh Herald, a representative of the Cuban embassy responded stating that the request for medical assistance has been conveyed to Cuba's ministry of health.

The letter went on to request details on how many medical personnel were needed and in which specialties.

 The representative also suggested holding a video call with the council to discuss the issue further.

 The hidden world of doctors Cuba sends overseas

On 15 March, the council's policy and resources committee agreed to the call and to extend an invitation to the Western Trust.

 A campaign has been active to restore emergency general surgery to SWAH since it was withdrawn in late 2022.

 The Western Health and Social Care Trust said the suspension was necessary to protect the public's safety after staff recruitment issues.

Eamon Keenan, the independent councillor who initially proposed requesting assistance from Cuba, welcomed the embassy's response.

 "Cuba, a country living under heavy US economic sanctions, is able and willing to send medical support to us, the poor people of Fermanagh," Mr Keenan told the committee.

However, Cuba's medical diplomacy has come under scrutiny, with reports that staff are forced to live in dangerous conditions.

 Reports include staff being controlled by minders, being subjected to curfews and having a large portion of their wage taken by the Cuban state.

The Cuban embassy and the Western Trust have been contacted for comment.