Cuba Hopes for Permission From the French Government To Send Its Doctors to Brittany

Gaël Roblin, holding the Breton independence flag and protest posters of the Guingamp hospital, next to Cuban diplomats in France. (G.R/ Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 19 September 2023 — The Cuban government is discussing the possible landing of one of its international medical missions in France, in metropolitan territory, an idea that depends on a French government permit that seems very unlikely.

Otto Vaillant, Cuba’s ambassador to the country, and his number two, Gisele Pérez Gómez, attended the annual Communist Party meeting held in the region of Brittany (northwest) this weekend. There they met with the Breton independence politician Gaël Roblin, who has been advocating for months for the deployment of Cuban doctors to help alleviate the lack of staff in the area’s hospitals.

In April of this year, the Guingamp hospital announced the suspension of childbirth care due to a lack of midwives, obstetricians and anesthesiologists. Roblin, a councilor in that Breton municipality, wrote a letter to the Cuban Embassy to ask for help in providing  doctors to “save motherhood.” “Many elected politicians and citizens believe that this shortage is organized and indicates a clear desire to destroy the Public Health Service in rural areas. This situation is repeated, in particular, in Carhaix and Landerneau. Equal access to public health services is no longer guaranteed for everyone,” he said.

Could the Republic of Cuba make health personnel available to the French health authorities to allow, in case of emergency and on a temporary basis, the possibility of giving birth in Guingamp?

Roblin alluded to Cuba’s “internationalist commitment to health,” reviewing the deployment of doctors from the Island across all continents, including Europe (Andorra and Italy), since the COVID-19 crisis. “Could the Republic of Cuba make health personnel available to the French health authorities to allow, in case of emergency and temporarily, the possibility of giving birth in Guingamp? Could you tell me how to proceed?” he asked.

Although there is no news of a public pronouncement from the Cuban side since that time, everything indicates that the reaction was immediate and positive. However, for Cuban doctors to work in France, a presidential decree is necessary. French legislation prevents hiring doctors, dentists, midwives or pharmacists from States that do not belong to the European Union or to the countries with which they maintain agreements, such as Morocco or Tunisia.

In 2005, the Government made an exception for Guyana, to  temporarily hire personnel from other countries, a measure that was based on the remoteness of the overseas territories from the continent. On that basis, in 2019, Martinique and Guadeloupe achieved a similar ordinance that in 2020 allowed the sending of Cuban health workers for the first time during the worst of the pandemic.

The story didn’t end well. The Martinique press echoed the lack of skills to practice in the territory — many due to lack of knowledge of more modern technologies — which made the Cubans mere  collaborators. “In some services they help; in others they don’t contribute anything due to their poor level of French and their lack of knowledge of pharmacology,” said some Antillean colleagues. The operation cost 300,000 euros that, according to some dissenting voices, “could have allowed the creation of positions for young Martinican doctors or helped to finance their medical studies.”

Despite this experience, the director of the Guingamp hospital did not completely close the door to the Cuban option in an interview about the suspension of deliveries in the center, decreed until next October 31, although supplies would run out before.

“You can study. Professional training varies from country to country. There are levels of requirements in France and the European Union. We need to know if these professionals can come directly to practice in France, and as far as I know, they can’t. There are different steps to being recognized as a doctor, to have the ability to exercise the profession. There is the question of the language barrier. We can’t imagine that midwives who don’t speak French would be able to practice in France. And I’m not sure that bringing health professionals from a country that probably needs them can solve the problem on its own,” he said.

“They confirmed to me that their offer was still valid, and that they had discussed it with the Cuban authorities and with the health union of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba”

Despite this, Roblin endorsed the proposal this weekend on the occasion of his meeting with the Cuban diplomats. “They confirmed to me that their offer was still valid, and that they had discussed it with the Cuban authorities and with the health union of the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC). A decree of the French Government is enough so that, as during the Covid pandemic in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Cuban health personnel can be deployed urgently,” he said.

In addition, the politician added that a future visit by the Cuban authorities to elected politicians from different parts of Brittany is being debated “to measure the extent of medical needs and consider other forms of cooperation.”

The Cuban government has only achieved a similar contract in Europe in Calabria (Italy), where this August a brigade of health workers landed in the face of the region’s difficulties in finding professionals. The rest of the missions on the continent arrived during the pandemic, in Piedmont and Lombardy (also in Italy) and Andorra, where a spectacular desertion took place, that of the head of the brigade and a subordinate.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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