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Cuban refugee health care: response of the American health care system to the unexpected arrival of 125,000 immigrants.

  • R A Bienia
  • J D VanDerDecker
  • B H Bienia
Publication Date
Jun 01, 1982
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


During the spring of 1980, over 120,000 Cuban refugees emigrated to the United States. Their rapid, unexpected arrival overwhelmed existing health care facilities in south Florida. Government-operated screening centers capable of handling large patient loads were established. Health screening involved a brief history and physical examination and a search for active tuberculosis and venereal disease. Thousands of refugees were processed rapidly and released to waiting relatives and sponsors. Many others, who for social or psychological reasons could not be released. were transferred to holding centers in various parts of the country. US Public Health Service physicians were faced with difficulties whose basic cause could be traced to the boredom of camp life and stresses due to uncertainty regarding the future. Acting out and compliance problems with medical aftermaths were common. About 3,000 refugees remain in custody today.

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