A crisis created by an epidemic of blindness gave us the unparalleled opportunity to work closely with clinicians and scientists in Cuba, and therein to appreciate that nation’s medical and scientific systems. Interesting features of the Cuban health care system provided unique advantages and disadvantages in its response to this ophthalmologic emergency.
In 1993 and 1994, an epidemic of blindness struck as many as 50 000 individuals in a country with a total population of only about 10 million. This led to a crisis that was initially managed by a special task force comprising about 1000 Cuban investigators, clinicians, and administrators known as the National Operative Group (NOG).1 The NOG was presided over by the Ministry of Public Health, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Civil Defense, and was personally led by the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro. The NOG chose to mobilize Cuba’s ophthalmologists, who helped to establish 60 diagnostic centers.1 During this time, patients were referred to regional screening centers, and then they were referred to the central hospitals in Havana, Cuba, where many were hospitalized.
Sadun AA. Ophthalmology in Cuba. Arch Ophthalmol. 2005;123(10):1431-1432. doi:10.1001/archopht.123.10.1431