Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Santo Thomãs - the end of the Road in the Zapata, Cuba

If you take the lonely road west through forest and scrubland in the Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata, eventually you reach the hamlet of Santo Thomãs. A rough road may continue further, but it's surprising you can drive this far. But as you can see from the sign, there is bus service.
Zapata sparrow, photograph © Carl Mease 2017
We were with a birding group and took boats along a canal to find the Zapata Sparrow. We saw the little guy, one of the endemic birds of Cuba. The canals lead to the Gulf of Batabano and were dug by the timber industry in the early 1900s. This one has been maintained to let villages reach the sea and go fishing.
Santo Thomãs is quiet now. A local gent said once there were 500 residents, but only a few dozen live here now.
The town had a small community center, a place where the gents (and ladies?) could sit with a beer and play chess or other games. We saw similar community centers in many rural towns.
This modest house is the community clinic. The visiting nurse lives on the second floor, while the clinic is on the ground floor.
The examining rooms were basic but clean. However, there was no air conditioning, and I am not sure how they keep out mosquitoes in the wet season. The nurse comes for 5 or 6 days and is replaced on a regular rotation. The gent above was a college graduate.
A sheet of paper had listed several medical procedures and the value of this service in Pesos. Even though medical care is free, I suppose the card's purpose was a form of advertising for the government. The prices were in the Pesos used by local Cuban citizens. As of early 2017, 24 local Pesos = 1 CUC Peso or U.S. $1. So, a consultation with a cardiologist is worth 79.64 Pesos or $3.31. Attention for a grave patient is 770.50 Pesos or $32. The nurse told us that for serious illnesses, an ambulance would take the patient to the city or a helicopter might even be used. I am impressed that such a small town has a full-time clinic. We need more walk-in clinics in the USA, where people can get inexpensive or free preventative care before their illnesses blossom into major medical emergencies, requiring ultra-expensive hospital emergency room treatment or long-term hospitalization.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment