14ymedio, Madrid, 24 January 2024 — After Calabria, another Italian region will receive a group of Cuban doctors soon. According to the Sardinian press, 128 doctors and 30 nurses will arrive in Sardinia very soon – without specifying a date – since the permits are about to be delivered. At the moment, the financial content of the contract, which ends on December 31, 2025, has not been revealed and contains a clause for an eventual renewal.
The news was disseminated a few days ago by the media L’Unione Sarda, to whom the regional Minister of Health, Carlo Doria, confirmed that Cubans are currently receiving Italian lessons. The measure provides a solution to the urgent lack of medical personnel on the largest island in the Mediterranean.
The agreement, concluded at the Cuban Embassy in Rome between the Doria municipal government and Cuban Minister of Health José Ángel Portal Miranda, responds to months of demands from the inhabitants of Sardinia, in particular the SOS Barbagia-Mandrolisai committee.
The collective is named after two regions located in the center of Sardinia, where the lack of doctors is more noticeable than in the two large tourist areas of the country, the north (with the exclusive Emerald Coast) and the south, where Cagliari, the capital, is located. Outside these two privileged areas – where the public healthcare network also does not have a large endowment – the shortage is alarming.
According to data from December, there are only three emergency doctors, who cannot cover the calls
According to data from December, there are only three emergency doctors, who cannot cover all the calls, and the ambulances do not have any doctors on board. In one of the health centers, the head of emergency is moving soon, leaving the place with only one permanent and three temporary doctors; that is, four of the seven that should be there. Surgeries are in danger, workers warn, having already been limited to being performed only four days a week, and with only two radiologists, it is impossible to cover holidays and vacations.
In addition, the air ambulance does not work at night either. It’s an essential transport on a very undeveloped island with precarious roads that triple the time to travel long distances.
“There is very little left of what was there a few years ago,” Manuel Tanda, head of a medical center in the area, said last month. “The situation is aggravated by the fact that 118 (emergency) operates without doctors and the air ambulance does not work at night, in case of adverse weather conditions or when other interventions are carried out. We request compliance with Ministerial Decree 70 and the law of redefining the hospital network of 2017,” he said, without mentioning other shortages like the lack of pediatricians and psychiatrists.
SOS Barbagia-Mandrolisai contacted the Doria municipal government and other health authorities in April to request an immediate solution, “invoking the hiring, ultimately, of Cuban doctors,” according to the letter, in which the detail about the lack of doctors was exhaustive and alarming.
“The health situation in Sardinia is rapidly worsening, both in terms of primary and hospital care. We note the lack of coverage at the level of essential assistance, the abnormally long waiting lists, the use of private healthcare (for those who can afford it) and the flight of hospital staff due to extreme working conditions,” they wrote, specifying that the problem already existed before the pandemic and that the hospital in the worst situation (San Camilo di Sorgono) was already qualified in a decree (the aforementioned 70) as “particularly disadvantaged,” without anything having been done to remedy it.
After listing the missing positions, the committee launched its emergency proposal, the hiring of Cuban doctors as an urgent measure
After listing the missing positions, the committee launched its emergency proposal, the hiring of Cuban doctors as an urgent measure in the face of the realization that everything else had failed: “The administrative process could be the same as that followed by the region of Calabria, with a cooperation agreement with the Cuban Medical Services Marketer (CSMC), which requires that Cuban health workers possess the necessary qualifications and skills for the exercise of care activities and the possibility of replacing them with equally qualified personnel if necessary.”
In the summer, the regional government began to accept that this was the only immediate solution. “It was necessary to proceed with the activation of a collaboration agreement with the Cuban government to provide specialized services in the branches of the healthcare system that lack workers,” it stated. It also specified that “an endowment fund of 5 million euros per year would be available for their coverage, including food, accommodation and training.” The local Italian press said that for each of the doctors of Calabria, the region would pay 3,500 euros in salary and 1,200 euros for maintenance, accommodation, travel and training.
The reaction of the national unions was not long in coming. In August, Luciano Congiu, regional deputy secretary of the Italian Union of Physicians, convened a meeting with the region to “address the content of the Complementary Regional Agreement on general medicine and discuss the pay for doctors willing to work in disadvantaged areas of Sardinia. The compensation can also double the salary, as happens in other areas of Italy, to work in a more complex environment.”
The unions say they have better proposals to restructure health in a complex region such as Sardinia without the need to resort to hiring overseas or using private companies, which they have also denounced for months. “We have to respond to the lack of health services in the territory, intervene in the bureaucratic tasks that burden the work of doctors and decisively aim for a salary adjustment to respond to the crisis,” they said.
Italy was the first European country to open the door to the hiring of Cuban doctors through the State
Italy was the first European country to open the door to the hiring of Cuban doctors through the State. It did so in an emergency, during the 2020 pandemic, when there was a virulent breakout of Covid-19 in the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy (north of the country). Calabria (in the extreme south) then signed a contract to cover structural needs and hired 500 health workers from the Island. “The idea arose from despair,” said Roberto Occhiuto, president of the Calabria region, but there are complaints in some European sectors about the CMSC operation.
Cuban doctors work in semi-slavery conditions in dozens of countries, since the government appropriates between 70% and 90% of their salary, and, in addition, they cannot interact with the local population and must publicly support the Cuban regime. Many health workers, however, continue to resort to these “medical missions” in order to facilitate their departure from Cuba or, at least, to receive a salary higher than they would earn on the Island.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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