Leading Cuban biochemist reaches out to Jamaica to lower medical costs


According to the Jamaica Observer, a senior Cuban biochemist from Cuba’s largest biotechnology institute has reached out to Jamaica with ideas to save the struggling country millions of dollars and simultaneously improve healthcare for its people.

Leading Cuban biochemist, Dr Manuel Raices Perez-Castaneda, Business Development Executive at Cuba’s Center for Generic Engineering and Biotechnology, said that Jamaica was so near, yet appeared to be far away from engaging Cuba in ways that it can improve health care to hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who suffer from various ailments.

“For a long time we have had cooperation in health care with Jamaica, and even now we have a permanent medical brigade in your country,” Perez-Castaneda told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview at his organisation’s offices here.

“But cooperation could be better between us. The first thing is for Jamaica, it will be a win-win situation, and personally, I get the feeling that this message is not clear. When you are talking about introducing knowledgeable therapists who are not in Jamaica, could be sent there, one of the things people think about is how expensive it could be in an economic scenario — introducing new therapists that can be costly, and it’s not clear of the impact that will be derived. We have an answer for that. When you look at health as an expense, you start making a mistake, and I am not talking about Jamaica alone. This is the first mistake a country can make, because in health you do not spend, you invest,” Dr Perez-Castaneda said.

Among the initiatives that Cuba is willing to undertake, in collaboration with Jamaica, Dr Perez-Castaneda said, is the plan to reduce Jamaica’s spending on a disease like diabetes, and fewer amputations which result from complications of the disease. [. . .]

“It costs Jamaica US$99 million per year to treat diabetes (medication, surgery, renal dialysis, heart attacks, blindness etc), because around 216,303 persons in Jamaica have diabetes. It is like a tax.

“If things continue at this rate in Jamaica, very soon you will have an invasion in your country without an army. If you have diabetes, go to the beach and hit a stone, bacteria gets inside and say ‘this is a five-star hotel for us’ and they colonise the wounds. The next thing is the person finishes with an amputation, which leads to depression and in less than five years, 90 per cent of persons who lost a leg die.

“There is a US$32-million cost associated with amputation. Now, we have developed a technology in Cuba that has resulted in far less people getting amputations. That can also be offered to Jamaica. We now amputate one fifth of the legs that we cut seven years ago, so there is an 80 per cent reduction of amputations in Cuba. We can transform the Jamaican health sector if you hear us. The therapy that we have in Cuba saves lives. If we cooperate and work as a team, every year we can save 1,000 legs in Jamaica,” Dr Perez-Castaneda told the Sunday Observer.

“We have a set of technocrats here in Cuba who can improve even more the quality of life of the Jamaican people, but also can generate huge savings in health spend in Jamaica, if you invest in our products. But we need to have cooperation with Jamaica at a higher level than it is now. We have some technology that can help improve the quality of lives of Jamaicans. So you have the neighbour who has the political will to cooperate even more in health,” he went on.

Dr Perez-Castaneda said that Cuba’s will to develop its biotechnology industry stemmed from the embargo imposed on the socialist country by the United States after it severed ties with the Fidel Castro led Cuba, following a coup on January 1, 1959. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Big-health-offer_19225225

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