The Cuban Medical Brigade – made up of 225 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and support staff (engineers, administrators, economists, mechanics, etc.) – has been working in Timor-Leste since April 2004 following a health agreement signed between Cuban and Timorese governments in February, 2004.
The Brigade, which consists mainly of specialists including areas such as Obstetrics, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, Hygiene and Epidemiology and Urology, has worked alongside the Ministry of Health to improve medical care with an integral and community-based focus through prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation. Their work covers a wide range of other areas including, blood donation, emergency simulation checks, voluntary work, organisation of National Awareness Days and commemoration and celebration of important historical, scientific, cultural and sporting events.
The Brigade has brought, not only new fields of medicine and specialists to the area which include Psychiatry, Dermatology, Maxillofacial Surgery, Neonatology, Pneumology, Hematology, Otorhinology, Clinical Laboratory, Pathological Anatomy, Microbiology and Emergency Medicine, but also, Radiologists, Lab Technicians, Anesthesiologists, Physiotherapists, Stomatologists, Nurses, Pharmacists, IT specialists, Statisticians and Electro Medical Engineers and Technicians.
In just over 3 years, the Brigade has continued to grow in size, now enabling the medical teams to provide health care for all 13 of the country’s districts as well as for the 65 sub-districts, the National Hospital and 5 Referral Hospitals, even in times of conflict. In fact, the Brigade continues to provide medical care at refugee centres following conflicts, which took place in 2006 and 2007. Vast improvements have also been made, with the support and guidance of the Brigade, in areas such as human resourcing, medical research and programmes and planning in general.
Additionally, the medical Brigade has done important work in terms of professional development and education, particularly following its inauguration of the Timor Lorosae Medical Faculty in 2005 which is currently training 147 students and which now has a site in each district of the country. Medical students are trained under a community-based focus which reinforces the importance of “the individual, family and community”. Their training now requires them to be directly involved in field visits made to patients by Cuban Health Workers. The Faculty also offers Post-graduate study such as Masters and Diploma
Since the Brigade began working in the area, there have been:
- 2,314,702 consultations; 844,618 of which were field visits
- 15,916 operations; 4,420 of which were major
- 15,013 births; 761 of which were by Caesarean
- 10,650 patients have had physiotherapy
- 507 patients have undergone pathological anatomy examinations
- 24,361 immunizations have been administered
- Over 13,000 repairs and maintenance of medical equipment have been completed
- 10, 533 lives have been saved
Dr. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna