14ymedio, Miami, 1 December 2017 — The Supreme Court of Brazil decided on Thursday, by a vote of six to two, that the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program, in which more than 8,000 Cuban doctors participate, is legal under Brazil’s Constitution.
The complaint against the program, started by ex-president Dilma Rousseff, was presented by the Brazilian Medical Association and the National Confederation of Regulated University Workers. Both institutions denounced the unequal treatment to access the program, since doctors in other countries are exempted from revalidating their degrees in Brazil, are hired through fellowships and, in the case of Cubans, most of their salary goes to the Cuban government.
Mais Médicos was created to increase the presence of doctors in the most disadvantaged areas of Brazil. According to official figures, 18,240 doctors currently participate, of which 47% are Cuban.
Marco Aurelio, one of those testifying in the case, told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, referring to the Cubans, that the lack of doctors in Brazil can not serve as a justification to avoid the commitment “to the fundamental rights of the human being.”
Some 200 professionals from Cuba are involved in lawsuits to be allowed to escape from the control of the Pan American Health Organization and to stop the Cuban government frm keeping two-thirds of their salaries. More than 2,000 doctors from the island have emigrated to the United States from Brazil and several hundred more have married Brazilian citizens since the program began in 2013.
Among Cuban doctors who await a favorable decision on their judicial processes to participate in the Mais Médicos program, the ruling has been seen as a defeat.
“Behind all efforts to prevent the Mais Médicos program from disappearing, we must always look to the Cuban Government. They will do everything possible to maintain that source of hard currency and deter doctors from escaping from the program,” says Ernesto, a clinician on the island who left the medical mission last year.
The export of medical services is Cuba’s main source of hard currency. According to official figures, the country receives between eight and ten billion dollars from this source. After Venezuela, Brazil has the second highest number of “Cuban health workers.”
The legal coordinator of the Federal Council of Medicine of Brazil, José Alejandro Bullón, told Folha de Sao Paulo that the hiring of foreign doctors without the proper revalidation of their diplomas violates national rules.
“We are creating two types of medicine: one for those who can pay for a doctor with a revalidated diploma and one for those who can not,” he said.
The Mais Médicos program allows doctors to work in the country for only three years. If the contract is extended for another three years, the doctor must revalidate his or her title.
The magistrates emphasized that some municipalities that did not have doctors managed to ensure minimum health care and, in the case of Cuban doctors, said that those who signed up for the program knew the conditions imposed by Cuba.
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