More than 2,000 Guyanese receive eye care in Cuba

Campaign News | Sunday, 25 September 2005

Treatment financed with help from Venezuela saves millions of dollars for poorest in region

September 24, GEORGETOWN, Guyana:

More than 2,000 Guyanese citizens have received free eye care in Cuba in the past two months, the health minister said yesterday.

About 1,400 patients have returned from the communist-run country since mid-July, while 600 others are currently there, said Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy. They have been treated for ailments ranging from cataracts to damaged retinas, he said.

Cuba, with financial cooperation from Venezuela, started providing free eye care to Caribbean patients in July. More than 5,000 people from 10 countries have been treated, the Cuban Embassy in Guyana has said.

Hundreds more Guyanese are waiting for treatment, Ramsammy said.

"We are saving millions from this programme," he said. "If people had to go to a private doctor for the same treatment, it could cost up to US$2,000 (euro1,646) each."

The Guyanese government gives each patient US$42.70 (euro35.10) of spending money for what is usually a week-long stay at a Cuban hospital. Cuba gives the patients free medicine for post-surgery treatment when they return to Guyana. Relatives are allowed to travel free of charge with elderly and blind patients.

Cuba and Venezuela, close political allies, have sought to increase aid for their neighbours, describing the effort as an alternative to US-backed free trade initiatives.

Venezuela recently signed agreements with 13 Caribbean countries to provide them with oil under favourable financial conditions.

Hundreds of Cuban doctors and nurses are working in Venezuela and several Caribbean countries. More than 1,000 Caribbean students have scholarships to study at Cuban universities.

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