Havana Provincial Court sentenced Wilfredo Castillo Donate, the director of Havana Psychiatric Hospital, to 15 years in prison on Monday for negligence in the deaths of 26 patients during a cold spell last year. Twelve other staff members of Cuba’s largest mental health institution also received sentences ranging from 5 to 14 years in prison.
The 26 patients died of hypothermia and other ailments last January during a spell of cold winter weather that dipped as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius)—unusual for Cuba’s tropical climate. The prosecutor argued that despite the hospitals dilapidated condition, the staff had sufficient resources in its possession, such as extra blankets and available warmer rooms, to prevent the deaths.
Critics of the government claim that the patient deaths expose shortcomings in Cuba’s free health care system, which has been a point of pride for the Castro regime. Members of the convicted hospital staff have 10 days to appeal their sentences.