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Cuba hospital staff get long jail terms for patient deaths

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
  • Psychiatric patients died during a cold snap
  • Cubans were outraged by the incident

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A Cuban court has sentenced 13 hospital staff to lengthy prison terms in the deaths of 26 psychiatric patients during a cold snap last year, state media reported Tuesday.

They were convicted of crimes ranging from negligence to abandonment of disabled persons and misappropriation of resources. They now face prison terms of five to 15 years, even more than demanded by the prosecution.

The patients were found dead after temperatures plunged in January 2010. According to state media, they lacked blankets and clothing and many showed signs of poor nutrition.

News of the deaths first emerged from human rights groups and was later confirmed by state media. Cubans were outraged by the incident, which dealt a blow to the island's lauded health system.

The hospital director, Wilfredo Castillo Donate, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Various other department heads, and even the cook, were also sentenced.