Tummy tuck, M'am?
This growing area of the Cuban economy involves well-off foreigners travelling to the island for medical treatment, such as hip replacements, cornea operations, etc.
Patients get treated in top-notch hospitals set up especially for foreigners - the type of “typical” Cuban hospital visited by Michael Moore recently.
Once treated, the patients recover in luxury hotels dotted around the island, where the only Cubans allowed in are the waiters, gardeners and cleaning maids.
The medical treatment is considerably cheaper than similar treatment in the United States, as you can see from this media release issued by a Canadian company called Choice Medical Services.
According to the Winnipeg-based company, they have just signed a new contract with the State-owned Cuban health tourism agency, Cubanacan.
As a result, lucky North Americans will now be able to get a hip replacement in Cuba for just USD8,000 - a bargain compared to the USD60,000 such an operation would cost in the US.
The cost of an appendectomy in Cuba? Just USD4,800, compared to USD19,000 on the other side of the Straits of Florida.
As for a “tummy tuck” … a mere USD2,644.
The head of Choice Medical Services, Bill Doran, said the new contract with Cubanacan was a win-win for all involved.
“We are very pleased with this contract as it helps patients with their medical needs, it supports the Cuban economy and aids the Cuban people, and it reduces pressure on the healthcare system here at home,” Mr Doran said.
The contract will certainly help the patients save money and it will certainly funnel more hard currency into the Cuban economy, which is almost entirely controlled by the regime, but I am not too sure about aiding the Cuban people.
In any case, there are two other, rather important issues that sadly are not addressed in the press release.
First, the fact that Cubanacan is owned, operated and supervised by the military, as you can read here.
And second, the fact that the average wage for a Cuban doctor is between USD20.00 to USD30.00 a month.
The rest of the money paid by those tummy-tucked visiting patients is pocketed by the Castro brothers.