The Vietnam-Cuba Hospital in Quang Binh province’s Dong Hoi city was built in 1973 following the visit of Cuba’s then-president Fidel Castro to the region. In the following years, it has become recognised as a shining monument to the sacred brotherhood and intimate friendship between Vietnam and Cuba.

The hospital is also a manifestation of President Fidel’s famous statement “For Vietnam, Cuba is ready to shed its blood”.

To Lai Van Ly - one of the people involved in the designing and planning of the hospital, and Vice Chairman of the Quang Binh People’s Committee in the 1973-1976 period - the story of Castro’s decision to build the hospital is still fresh in his mind even now.

In September, 1973, Fidel Castro visited the newly-liberated areas of Quang Binh and Vinh Linh, despite numerous dangers as these areas, dubbed “the fire zone” were the site of fierce fighting.

As his car was travelling from Dong Hoi to Quang Tri, Fidel saw several people carrying an injured woman on a stretcher on the road side. Immediately, he asked to stop the car and got out to inquire about her health. The woman was wounded by a bomb when she and local young people were repairing the road. He then asked Cuban Ambassador Valdes Vivo to take the victim to Vinh Linh in the car for emergency aid.

The loss and pain that local people and soldiers in Quang Binh suffered made a strong impression on the Cuban President. With the hope of helping the people, the president decided to help Vietnam build a general hospital equipped with the latest equipment in Dong Hoi, offering treatment for not only local resident but also to neighbouring localities.

Immediately after returning to Cuba, Fidel sent a seven-member engineering team to Quang Binh to help choose the location and make a plan for the building the hospital. Later in 1974, four Vietnamese officials, including Ly, were sent to Cuba to take part in the design of the hospital.

On the occasion of President Ho Chi Minh’s birthday on May 19, 1974, the then Minister of Construction, Do Muoi, laid the first brick of the hospital.

All materials and construction machineries for the hospital were sent from Cuba, traveling half-way round the world.

In addition, as many as 100 Cuban workers and engineers were dispatched to Quang Binh to directly build the hospital and support local workers.

After seven years, the hospital opened on September 9, 1981, with a capacity of 462 beds. More than 140 Cuban medical experts then arrived to help with both the management of the hospital and patients’ treatment.

Over the years since, the Vietnam-Cuba Dong Hoi Hospital has make great steps in improving its quality and applying more advanced technology. It now has 600 beds and nearly 600 staff members, and is trying to raise the number of beds to 800.

The hospital is truly a symbol of the solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and Cuba.-VNA