Bush rejects offer of aid from Venezuela
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09/09/2005 01:48 AM
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09/09/2005 02:03 AM
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Doctors Urge U.S. to Accept Cuba´s Offer of 1586 Disaster-Trained Doctors to Stop Katrina Epidemics
ATLANTA, Sept. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A prominent U.S. medical group voiced
"deep concern" over delays in health care and epidemic prevention reaching
Katrina victims, and urged U.S. authorities to accept Cuba´s offer of 1586
disaster-trained physicians to prevent a "second wave of sickness and death."
Latest reports indicate the U.S. State Department is backing away from the
offer, implying they are not needed.
"Up to this point, there been a clear need for more medical help for
Katrina victims," said Peter Bourne, MD, Chairman of MEDICC and former special
adviser on health in the Carter White House and former Assistant Secretary
General at the United Nations. "The Cuban physicians are accustomed to working
in difficult third-world conditions without the resources and supplies most of
us are accustomed to. Since they are just an hour away, it is a shame that
they have not been allowed to join our committed medical corps already."
He is joined by other physicians, medical educators, international health
experts and a former U.S. surgeon general associated with MEDICC, Medical
Education Cooperation with Cuba. From 1998 through 2004, MEDICC has provided
medical electives in Cuba for nearly 1000 students and faculty from 118 U.S.
medical, public health and nursing schools.
"Cuba has been recognized by the UN, Oxfam and other international
organizations as a leader in disaster response, expertise that could be saving
lives now," said Doctor William Keck, former long-time director of the Akron,
Ohio Department of Public Health.
A 2004 Oxfam Report, Weathering the Storm: Lessons in Risk Reduction from
Cuba, states that there are real lessons to be learned from Cuba on how to
safeguard lives during extreme natural disasters, including getting medical
attention to vulnerable populations. The report can be found at
[link to www.oxfamamerica.org]
On Tuesday, August 30, Cuba first offered U.S. authorities hurricane
relief in the form of 1100 disaster-trained bilingual physicians, each
equipped with 52-pound pound backpacks of medical supplies, including
rehydration therapy, insulin, anti-hypertensives, and medications for systemic
and topical infections.
On Saturday, September 3, Cuba increased the offer to 1586 doctors, ready
for immediate deployment and prepared to stay as long as necessary to help
wherever needed. A Cuban spokesperson said that as of today there has been no
official response from the U.S. government.
Cuban disaster relief experience spans 45 years, mainly in hurricanes
faced by the Caribbean island and in coping with disasters confronted by other
developing countries. Another nearly 25,000 Cuban health professionals
provide longer-term health care services in 68 countries, under government-to-
Cuba trains 10,500 medical students from 27 countries at its Latin
American Medical School -- 65 of them from poor and minority communities in
the USA. (See The New England Journal of Medicine, 2004; 351:2680-82.)
"What an irony that the first U.S. MD to graduate from the school this
August is a young African American from New Orleans," said Diane Appelbaum,
RN, NP, MS. "He just passed the U.S. medical boards and is eager to fulfill
the commitment he made in exchange for his free education from Cuba to serve
the very poverty-stricken areas now devastated."
For additional first-hand reports and interviews from Cuba, please see
MEDICC´s on-line journal, MEDICC Review at [link to www.medicc.org] , Archives,
Vol VI, No. 3, 2004 Disaster Management in Cuba: Reducing the Risk.
MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba) is a non-profit
organization based in Atlanta. MEDICC is committed to maintaining
institutional and educational links between the U.S. and Cuban medical
communities. MEDICC publishes the English-language journal MEDICC Review,
reporting on Cuba´s medical and public health programs, available at
[link to www.medicc.org.]
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