Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Inaugurates Neurological Center

FL0103190789 Havana Television Cubana Network in Spanish 0200 GMT 28 Feb 89

[Speech by President Fidel Castro at the inauguration ceremony of the
Ibero-American Neurological Center for Transplants and Rehabilitation in
Havana on 26 February--recorded]

[Text] Distinguished guests, comrades:  I have taken into account the fact
that today is a relatively cold day and we are outside.  Some of the guests
may be surprised to hear that we are talking about cold here.  Well, yes
sir, it is cold here.  [laughter] Nobody knows [words indistinct] but is is
cold and the humidity is high.  In addition, it is Sunday, the day created
for people to rest.  We are here inaugurating this center on a cold Sunday
evening.  I say all this because it is obvious that speeches here--except
those delivered by Hilda [Molina, director of the center], which are very
good--need to be brief.

As Comrade Hilda Molina explained, the center they named Ibero-American
Neurological Center for Transplants and Rehabilitation is being
inaugurated.  They discussed extensively what this center should be called
and finally named it this. Anyone could think that we are inaugurating,
this evening, a large installation with equipment worth millions of
dollars.  This is not the case.  We are inaugurating a small installation
with equipment worth some tens of thousands of dollars.  Perhaps later on
the center will have equipment worth some hundreds of thousand between the
ones already in place and others being purchased.  [Words indistinct] with
a new laboratory center built here for rats are as you know and the first
(?monkeys)--because they don't have many yet--but there is an area for
research animals.

I was asking the comrade, Hilda, what are you going to show here tonight
[corrects himself] or this evening since you do not have many things to
show here?  Anyone who looks at this center from a distance could say:  Is
it worth all this racket to inaugurate a center?  I told Hilda:  Talk to
the guests about the ideas and concepts behind this effort.  I believe this
is the most important thing and what actually makes us have big hopes for
this center.  This center is not isolated, of course.  It is associated
with one of our best hospitals.  I don't say the best hospital because this
can always hurt others.  It is also going to be associated with another one
of our best hospitals which is the Cimed [expansion not known].  I have
told Comrade Hilda that we should not work with the Hermanos Amerijerias
Hospital alone.  The Ameijeirals Hospital is our best known hospital
because of its equipment and resources.  We have other very good hospitals.
they are not too far away from here.  Cooperation can also be established
between this institution and those hospitals because of the conditions that
exist there.

In addition this center has special features.  Research, diagnostic, and
surgical activities are conducted in a single center.  I am not a
specialist in this matter but I have been told that one of the problems in
the world is that these activities--research, clinical, and surgical
activities--are conducted separately.  All this was put together when this
center was created.  Thus, there will be no separation.  Sometimes this
brings conflicts and contradictions.  I believe that research--provided it
is conducted under strict conditions--should be put into practice in
diagnosis and also in surgery when surgery is indicated.

There is another house next to this one.  It is the clinic and
rehabilitation center.  They discussed [words indistinct] and acquired the
property next door.  They acquired it from the CNIC [National Scientific
Research Center].  They discussed how to distribute the space.  A number
of beds were suggested.  I saw that they had a lot of interest [words
indistinct] on those beds.  They were also going to install a library and a
classroom.  I suggested that perhaps another space could be found for the
library and the classroom considering the interest that existed on the
number of beds.  I suggested to them the number of beds be increased.
Finally, the area next door is going to have up to 18 beds and a
rehabilitation center.

This is very important.  They explained that sometimes people from abroad
or from far away places in our country come here.  If they are not going to
be using the beds for surgery patients, they could stay here during the
rehabilitation period.  Beds for surgery patients of the Hermanos
Ameijeiras Hospital and those beds we are also going to have at the Cimed
will be used better.  As a matter of fact, the Cimed is being expanded now.
It is going to have new wards and room for more patients.  We could also
use a number of beds for activities related to the center.

The project has not been completed but we have a good area set aside here.
There is enough space to build a hospital if the progress of research
justifies it, if the development of our work makes it necessary.  This is
why I say construction of a specialized hospital in this area depends on
the results of this research center.  We will use other hospitals for now.
We have the space here.  It is a very valuable space.  We can say that our
country has a scientific area in the zone.  It is not dedicated to medicine
alone but it is mainly a scientific-medical area.  It would be more correct
to say it is a scientific-medical area [Castro corrects gender].

Here we have CNIC, one of the first research centers developed by the
revolution.  At the time it was created it was called the National
Scientific Research Center.  It sounded as if there was only one.  The
country has over 100 scientific research centers of various types, but this
one has played a very important role.  This center is operated by the
University of Havana.  It has developed important research, some of it in
the field of neurological sciences.  I do not say I know about all of the
research, but I do know, for example, that they developed medicid [not
further identified].  They developed neuronics [not further identified].  I
do not know if they were the ones who also developed the neurosid [not
further identified].  These machines are pretty advanced and can be
considered to be among the best in the field.  We only had one problem.
Sometimes, the research center developed equipment and it took 10, 12 or 15
years to produce it.  The medicid began to be developed over 12 years ago.
I do not know if I would be mistaken if I said 15 years ago.  This was done
when no similar equipment existed anywhere else.  A lot of time goes by
from the time of machine is developed to the time it is produced en mass.
We are now producing medicids en mass and, of course, they have been

This happened with the SUMA, the Ultra Microanalytic System.  It took many
years to be produced.  It was the first of its class in the world.  I
understand it still is.  It took many years from the time the machine was
developed to the time it was produced en mass.  This is one of the problems
we are discussing with research centers.  It is not their fault.  We are
also discussing the various factors that have to do with the production of
these machines.

Neuronics are more recent.  I remember that I heard about neuronics for the
first time about 31 months ago.  A little time has been wasted in getting
mass production started.  Some of these machines, of course, need to be put
into use.  Some of these programs cannot even be carried out if a number of
machines are not available and are not put into use so that the programs
are improved and we can determine for user that the machine is capable of
detecting and diagnosing certain types of problems according to certain
parameters.  This happened with medicid and neuronics.  These pretty
sophisticated machines were developed here at the Center for Scientific
Research.  This center has over 25 years of experience and has a very
competent and enthusiastic collective.  It is next to this center.

The Genetics Engineering and Biotechnology Center is over there.  It is a
new center.  It is a great one.  Who knows how many tens of millions
[currency not specified] were invested there.  The Genetics Engineering and
Biotechnology Center is located on 16 hectares and has tens of thousands of
square meters of building area.  It has very sophisticated equipment.
Suffice it to say that they have two of the most modern electronic
microscopes.  The Cenid also has them.  They are the mass spectrometer...
[leaves sentence unfinished] They have two or three different names.  I
don't want to discuss them further because [words indistinct] I remember
when each of those pieces of equipment where purchased.  These research
centers have excellent equipment.

Further down there is the Immunoessay Research Center.  It is new.  It also
has very good equipment and very dedicated personnel.  The staff of these
new centers is characterized as being fully dedicated to scientific
research night and day, without any rest, because of the enormous
importance of the work.  This is based on the idea that if people's lives
are going to depend on those efforts, not a single minute can be wasted.
[Words indistinct] these centers impose a very big moral obligation because
the lives and health of many people depend on them.  This principle began
to be applied since another center around here, the Biology Center, was
created.  This is where interpheron [not further identified] was first
produced.  At that time, there was a lot of talk of the possible effect of
interpheron in the fight against cancer.  This encouraged a lot of center's
workers and created a tradition that has extended to other centers.  The
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center was created with that

This small center is surrounded by some giants in the scientific field.
The important thing is not what this center can do alone but what it can do
with the help of other centers:  the Cenid, Genetic Engineering, Biology
Center, the Immunoessay Center.  All this gives it enormous possibilities.
This is what concerns us the most, how these centers can cooperate with
each other.  This center does not belong to a company, while another one to
another company, and another one to another one.  Rather, all these centers
belong to a single corporation which is the corporation of the people of
Cuba.  They are not going to work to compete with each other although they
can emulate among each other.  They should mainly work in close

I believe that one of the quantities of Comrade Hilda Molina, in addition
to her outstanding scientific skills, is that she knows how to ask others
for cooperation and promote cooperation among others.  For example, I
suggested she contact Cenpalab [expansion not know].  This is also a new
center which is being finished.  It is a laboratory for the production of
animals that are free of diseases or a center for the production of
laboratory animals.  It is a large center, an important center, also with
very dedicated people.  They immediately contacted them and Cenpalab is
willing to provide the resources this center may need for its research.

Comrade Hilda Molina has gotten the help of these institutions and of
others that have nothing to do with medicine as in the case of Cubanacan.
A long list of collaborators this center has was justly mentioned.
cubanacan is an organization that takes care of diplomats, gives attention
to diplomats, serves diplomats and the Palace of Convention, and many other
things.  It has experienced and skilled construction workers.  They carry
out very good quality work.  A house was found here and it had to be
remodeled and turned into a laboratory.  Who was going to do that?  A large
construction enterprise?  Large construction enterprises are not good for
this.  They are good perhaps to build a big factory or a big center such as
Genetic Engineering but not to fix a house.  Nevertheless, the people from
Cubanacan are experts in fixing houses.  When the other house was found,
Cubanacan's cooperation was sought also.  It has helped a lot.

I believe that one of the things our cadres should develop is the ability
to get the cooperation of others.  I have asked myself:  Why is there so
much enthusiasm in helping the Neuroligical Center for Transplants and
Rehabilitation?  Half jokingly and half seriously I have said:  Look
Hilda, maybe may of these people think they someday they may need this
center's services and this is why they help with so much enthusiasm.

This is what I can tell you about the [words indistinct].  This center is
simply something that is starting out but it is starting out very well.  It
is supported by very strong pillars.  I could add that these centers are
not the only ones located here but, as I said, the Cimed is also located
around here.  This hospital conducts important research.  The Institute of
Tropical Medicine is being completed near here.  The Victoria de Giron
Medical School is located near here.  The Victoria de Grion Medical School
is located near here.  The new biology school is going to be built close to
here.  Finlay Hospital is not far away from here.  This is a great hospital
in our capital.  A good maternity hospital is located a litter further.  A
children's hospital--the most modern one in the country--is being built
across from here.  The best opthalmology hospital in the country is located
a litter further.  It already has an ocular microsurgery center.  The best
orthopedic hospital in the country is located not far from here.  Without
any argument it is a great orthopedic center also with great advances.  The
capital's west hospital is going to be built next to the School of Medical
Sciences, a hospital in the west side.  It is going to be stared within 1
year, perhaps 2 years.  We have delayed it a little to be able to adjust
the program better.  It is going to be a very modern hospital.

Thus, a large number of medical institutions and a large number of
scientific and biological institutions are gathered here.  Our idea is that
all these institutions should cooperate with each other, that one day they
can organize as a front that they meet systematically to advance by
supporting each other.

I can assure you that there is great enthusiasm among all these scientific
centers' workers--an enormous enthusiasm.  I have witnessed it.  Based on
this, I believe this center's outlook is good.  I repeat, this a center
that is just starting out.  [Words indistinct] the practical application of
all the result of their research.

This institution is of great humane importance.  We all know that the
guests present here are men of science, that man has been able to do little
so far about human tragedy and a number of illnesses.  There are a few of
these types of illnesses but, in general, progress is being made.

One could not speak of heart transplants some 20 or 30 years ago.  This
would have appeared to be a fantasy or a crazy thing.  It was thought that
if the heart was touched, the patient would die.  You can now see what is
being done in the area of transplants.  They started with other organs:
first with kidneys, later with the heart, now it is heart and lungs, or
lungs, liver, pacreas, everything, [words indistinct] (?corneas).
Transplants are becoming a common thing.  It is something that would have
been considered a fantasy some 30 or 40 years ago.

At that time, an individual who underwent an appendectomy was left in bed
for 7 days and was not allowed to move.  That time is not far away.  Things
that appeared to be a fantasy 30 or 40 years ago are a reality today
because of all these new medicines used to solve the problems of organ
rejection.  These are extraordinary advances.

However, not much progress had been made in this field of application of
medicine to certain neurological problems.  There are problems with
Parkinson's disease.  It is controlled with certain medicines but there are
times when medicines do not help and it turns into a dramatic situation, a
terrible tragedy.  There are other kinds of chronic nervous diseases.
There are problems of circulatory disorders, brain disorders with its
dramatic consequences.  This is an area in which much progress had not been
made.  There are the problems of hemiplegia and above all, the problems
with marrow.  We can all understand how dramatic they are.  What an
extraordinary thing would be to be able to make progress in the fight
against those problems.  This is a subject that needs to be dealt with
carefully.  We have to be responsible.  We have to tell patients that we
are optimistic and we believe that we can overcome.... [changes thought]
Progress can be made in th fight against these problems but this is not an
easy fight and immediate results cannot be expected.  It would be a sad
thing to make many people hopeful and then results cannot be put into
practice immediately.

I say this because, although they have not been highly publicized, I know
current activities have been made known in many hospitals, at the Julio
Diaz Hospital, for example. I know that many patients are very hopeful.
There are many patients with Parkinson's disease, many patients.  There are
many patients with hemiplegia problems.  They have become very hopeful with
the sole news that there is a center that is going to conduct research on
this.  We have to be very careful.  It is preferable that we obtain results
that can be applied soon rather than to create great hopes on things that
cannot be applied immediately.  This is why this subject has to be dealt
with very carefully.

We can say that serious work is going to be performed in the search for the
solution to those problem.  We are hopeful for the results.  A lot is
ahead.  In the same way that transplant matters seemed to be a dream,
perhaps we can obtain results in this field in the future of things that
may seem to be a dream today.  This can be achieved through biology,
biotechnology, substances that actually encourage and activate growth and
can help in the solution of these neurological problems.

This is very new and we do not intend to say that our country should be
given the credit for this.  Other men in other countries such as Mexicans,
Swedes, and some Americans were pioneers in these neuroligical transplant
and rehabilitation matters.  What we intend to do is conduct a systematic
[words indistinct] and speed up the [words indistinct] in that direction.
The first transplant operation or [words indistinct] of--I don't know what
they call it--suprarenal glands, was conducted using this experience and
some prominent foreign figures who helped us.

It is very pleasing to have among us the patient that underwent that first
transplant.  I remember that around those days, when the report was
released.  I visited him at the hospital.  Later, I also saw the
videocassette which showed his health condition before he underwent
treatment.  It showed what he could and could not do, what his physical
condition was, the results later on, and above all, after rehabilitation.
I can attest to it because I have seen it and have observed it well; the
results are truly amazing.  People who virtually could not walk now can
swim, play basketball, and do a number of things that one could not have
imagined.  They are truly encouraging results.  I highlight this because
there are conflicting news reports.  There are times in which they are
optimistic and other times when they are pessimistic.  There are questions
whether there are positive or negative results.  In sum, the results were
have seen are very encouraging as far Parkinson's disease is concerned.
They are very encouraging.

All the before and after data, videocassettes, photos, have been gathered.
Of course, rehabilitation is playing a very important role.  It is not a
matter of performing surgery on a person and forgetting about him.  I
believe rehabilitation is going to play a very important role in all this.
This is the case not only in [words indistinct] cases, but in Parkinson's
disease and other cases such as the ones Comrade Hilda Molina explained

Some people are present here with hemiplegia problems caused by different
things.  Results are truly encouraging.  They are encouraging.  People who
didn't even have the slightest feeling in their extremities, in a matter of
hours or days have begun to experience feeling their limbs.  There have
been notable advances in the techniques which are being used.  I believe
they are the first ones of their kind.  The repertoire of resources ahead
of us is far from being depleted.  With the operation, [word indistinct]
tissues are transferred to irrigate those affected areas.  I have been
following this research closely and I can say results are truly
encouraging.  Our scientists's enthusiasm and the (?confidence) in the
results they may obtain through their work are justified.  This is
something that is just starting out.

I do not share some of the comments made which I have learned about through
international news cables.  There are some pessimistic people who tend to
disregard these techniques.  From what we have seen, our impression is
completely the opposite and we truly see large possibilities.  We are
optimistic in this sense.

Comrade Hilda was kind enough to [words indistinct] my cooperation to the
center and highlight merits.  I truly believe that my merits in all this
are very modest.  I should say that with all justice.  Yes, I am interested
in the subject.  I have curiosity on the subject.  I try to follow it
closely.  All I do is to attempt to support the effort a group of comrades
have been making.  Many of these ideas were their ideas.  The idea of
creating this Ibero-American center was theirs.  All we did was support the
idea, cooperate with the idea.  I say this because justice has to be made
to the ones who are dedicated to this task.  They are modest and do not
talk about their merits.  I am the one who should talk about the merits of
those who work here, at the Biology Center, Genetic Engineering, Cenid,
Immunoessay, Ameijeiras, Cimed, everywhere.

They are making a big effort.  A lot of the time this effort is made
quietly and in an anonymous way.  The only merit, if any, that can be
attributed to me is the merit of having confidence in what they are doing
and give them maximum support.  This is not a merit.  On the contrary, it
turns into somewhat of a pleasure; it pleases me to support this activity.

I toured this area today.  A sports area was built for exercises and sports
for all these research centers around here.  I said:  All that has turned
out prettier than we imagined.  I criticized that it was going too slow.
they really have built it very well.  I think they have discriminated
against women.  They have two gyms, one for men and another one for women.
They gave the best house to the men.  It has a springboard and everything
and the one for women didn't turn out well.  Maybe in the future something
better can be done there--a good swimming pool, some courts for volleyball,
basketball, and a track.

These scientists who devote endless hours to research at the laboratory
have to disconnect themselves once in a while and exercise.  They need to
be well fed.  We are trying to build housing around here so that they can
live close to the centers.  We want for them--if they want to--to establish
a practice for them to exercise or play sports at least an hour a day.  If
they don't want to we are not going to force them but we are going to force
them to interrupt their work at the center.  They can go and listen to
music if they want to.  If they don't want to play sports, they can listen
to music and relax.  We are talking about researchers who work 10, 12 13,
14 hours.  We are concerned about their health.  We are talking about
dedicated people.

We are very pleased to see how the scientific-technical complex is being
created in this area.  I can truly say that I have a lot of confidence and
certainly on the great results they are going to have in this and other
fields for the benefit of our people and other people.  I believe the
research collective and workers... [changes thought] They are not all
researchers.  The one who cooks at the center is important, very important.
It can be terrible for the research center if we have great scientists and
a bad cook.  We value, a great deal, the work of all, of the one who takes
care of the garden, cooks, cleans, assists.  The success of the institution
depends on all.  The work of the rest could not be possible without their

Multi-assignment is also practiced here.  Scientists clean their own
laboratories.  They clean material and do other things.  Multi-assignment
is practiced here.  The bus driver who picks workers up works with a truck,
at the garden, or at the warehouse when he arrives at the center later.
Nobody is left without something to do during the day.  This had made it
possible to reduce the workers' payroll considerably in all these places.
This is why I say these institutions are model institutions in every sense.
All this movement, this work style grows, expands in our research centers.
I am usually in touch with these centers and I see that everyday there is a
greater enthusiasm, a greater interest in what they are doing.

I believe that someday the spirit that prevails in these centers will be
the same spirit prevailing in all the research centers in the country.
Since I promised I was going to be brief and I talked about the cold--I
could also talk about appetite and some other things because there is going
to be a small reception--I cannot end my remarks without addressing all the
outstanding and prominent visitors that accompany us this evening [words
indistinct] to thank them for their attendance and their cooperation.  We
are certain that this neurology center event will be very useful and we
will be able to obtain fruitful benefits.  We are pleased to be able to
share with you the hopes of this evening.  At the same time, we ask and
expect the greatest cooperation in this task that is not inspired by
economic or profit goals but basically it is inspired by humanitarian
goals.  Thank you very much. [applause]