HAVANA – Cuba’s communist government announced Friday that administrators found to blame for the hypothermia-related deaths of 26 patients at a state psychiatric hospital in Havana will face charges.
“The principal people responsible for these events will be brought before the appropriate courts,” President Raul Castro’s government said in a statement read on state television, the first mention of the deaths in Cuba’s state-controlled media.
“In the Havana psychiatric hospital, which has 2,500 beds, there has been an increase in patient mortality during the last week. Twenty-six deaths were reported in total,” the communique said.
While acknowledging the fatalities were linked to prolonged temperatures of 3.6 C (38 F) earlier this week, the statement noted that some of those who succumbed to the cold were elderly and suffered from cancer or chronic heart problems.
“In the face of the situation described, the Ministry of Public Health decided to create a commission to investigate what happened, which as of the time of this report has identified various deficiencies,” the government said.
Officials addressed the matter a day after the dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, or CCDHRN, denounced the deaths at the hospital.
“The CCDHRN expresses its deep concern about the high number of avoidable deaths that occurred at the beginning of this week in the Psychiatric Hospital,” commission chairman Elizardo Sanchez said Thursday.
Sanchez told Efe the deaths were due to “criminal negligence,” describing the victims as defenseless patients abandoned in a run-down facility with broken windows. EFE