Viva La Cuba
My husband and I recently traveled to Cuba with some members of our local Chamber of Commerce. It was a business to business trip, an opportunity to meet with some local business owners and share ideas. It was an enlightening trip. The average Cuban earns $25/month, with doctors being the top earners at $50/month. Residents are given a number with which they can pick up their monthly ration of rice and beans. If they wish to supplement their food with fruit and vegetables, they can attend a monthly farmers market and purchase them.
All Cuban children receive a completely free education all the way through college and medical schools, if they so choose. Healthcare is free for all, although we were warned to be wary of obtaining medical care while traveling there.
What does this have to do with DailyOptician?
I was aware of how few of the people we met wore glasses. Finally, I asked our tour guide and although he was born in Cuba he lives in Miami with his family. He explained that even inexpensive frames are too expensive for most Cubans. What about free health care? Well, that extends them an exam and free lenses but does not cover a frame.
I did not see any optical retailers but was advised that the large ophthalmology hospital does obtain donated eyewear and distributes it as best they can.
Additionally, because there was an overabundance of doctors in Cuba, they have been shipped out to other third world countries and are paid large stipends and granted a nice home upon their return to Cuba. This led to a shortage of MDs in Cuba who are now stretched too thin as the demands for their services have increased at an alarming rate due to a doubling in the population, the large percentage of aging Cubans and because of their reputation as highly skilled, many patients travel to Cuba from other less well-educated countries to have procedures performed.
Can you help? There are several international optician and optometric groups trying to bring used eyewear in to Cuba. It is challenging and time consuming to get through all of the bureaucratic red-tape but perhaps that will get easier as restrictions continue to be revisited by both the Cuban and American governments.