13 04 2011


Back in March I reported on the weekly letter of complaints published in the daily newspaper Granma (here). One of the complaints that I outlined also appeared as a letter in the other Cuban daily paper, Juventud Rebelde, who publish a regular column entitled “Acuse de Recibo” (acknowledgement of receipt).

This particular complaint was from a man named Manuel who had gone into a pharmacy in Pinar del Rio province and had had to queue for 55 minutes before being served. During this time there was only one assistant at the counter, despite several pharmacists being visible at the back, doing other activities. One had come out to chat with a friend. Another had come to the counter, but left when her pen would not work. During the 55 minutes the telephone rang continually but nobody answered it. When he asked whose responsibility it was to answer the telephone he got a dismissive answer.

On 29th March Juventud Rebelde carried a column entitled “Si no fuera por Manuel…” (if it was not for Manuel…). This reported that an investigation into Manuel’s complaint was carried out by the Director General of the Pharmaceutical and Optical Company of Pinar del Rio, in conjunction with the provincial Director of Health. They interviewed Manuel and held meetings with the staff of the pharmacy.

The outcome of the investigation was that the administrator of the unit was found to be responsible, because although she was not there at the time, she was responsible for the insufficient control measures and lack of organisation that had led to the events in question. As a sanction she was given a lower position and reduction in salary for a period of six months.

The Technical Director of the pharmacy was found to have been negligent in allowing there to be only one assistant on the counter. It was she who had come to the counter to chat with a friend and then disappear again. She was given an inferior post for one year.

The assistants were not sanctioned. A programme was undertaken to discuss with all of the company’s employees in the province about how such behaviour affects the quality of service.

The author of the article thanked Manuel for his original complaint, which led to these remedial measures being taken. He asks: if it were not for battlers like Manuel, would anything have changed?

I would suggest that if all Cubans who were subject to unsatisfactory or indifferent service were to write to the newspapers, they would need very large editions indeed. However, it is good to see that at least in one place something was done about it. Let’s hope that the message is spread more widely.



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