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US, Cuban Doctors to Work Together in Haiti

Haitian nurses receive training aboard the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, anchored off Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.

A U.S. diplomat says his country and Cuba have a "historic opportunity" to work together to provide medical care for Haiti, still struggling to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.

Brian Shukan, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, said Thursday that following the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba, the doctors of both countries could work together to help improve Haiti's dilapidated health care system.

"We know Cuba has a long history of medical cooperation in Haiti, a great deal of expertise, hundreds of Cuban doctors have been working here for a tangible improvement," Shukan said as diplomats and physicians from the U.S. and Cuba toured St. Luke's Hospital outside Haiti's capital.

Cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. is "a natural thing," said Cuban Ambassador Ricardo Garcia Napoles on the hospital tour.

Earlier in the week, Shukan visited a Cuban-run hospital in the Haitian capital.

"On Tuesday we also were honored to visit La Renaissance, a Cuban hospital in Port-au-Prince, to see what Cuba's doing and, really, the work that Cuba has been doing for a long period of time, for many years. It's very impressive," he said.

Last week, the Cuban doctors visited the U.S. hospital ship USNS Comfort docked in Port-au-Prince, where the ship's medical staff has been providing free medical care to Haitians during the Comfort's Haitian mission.

Cuba is well-known for sending thousands of its doctors to poor countries around the world, providing free medical care.

"The challenge now is for us to continue talking and see where the synergies exist between us," Shukan said about the U.S. and Cuban doctors working cooperatively.

Earlier this year, the U.S. and Cuba re-established diplomatic ties that were severed more than 50 years ago.