14ymedio, Madrid, 18 August 2022 — A total of 497 Cuban doctors will be sent to Calabria beginning in September, as announced on Wednesday by president of that Italian region, Roberto Occhiuto, in a video broadcast on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Occhiuto explained the decision was necessary due to a personnel shortage that hospitals around the country are experiencing, especially those in Calabria, which he described as having “an unattractive health care system.” “Every region is doing everything possible to recruit doctors,” he says, adding that most have not been able to fill open positions.
“What are we supposed to do? Close the hospitals? Fire the support staff? Not guarantee Calabrian citizens’ right to health care? No!” he says forcefully into a camera before announcing the agreement with a Cuban government corporation, Comercialzadora de Servicios Medicos (CSMC), which handles the export of Cuban medical services, the regime’s primary source of income.
Occhiuto, who is a member of Forza Italia, the right-wing party found by Silvio Berlusconi, praises “the extraordinary work” of the Cuban medical missions sent to Italy in March 2020 at the height of that country’s Covid-19 pandemic.
He also notes that CSMC is “the same government company that supplies thousands of doctors to many countries around the world with great success in terms of quality and experience because the Cuban medical school is one of the best there is.”
The three-year agreement was signed on Wednesday at the Cuban Embassy without the the official fanfare that typically accompanies such events.
According to Italian press reports, the two sides spent weeks in negotiations, with Calabria ultimately agreeing to pay 3,500 euros per doctor with an additional 1,200 euros for living expenses, lodging, travel and training.
The reports did not indicate how much each participant would receive though the Cuban government often retains about 80% of an individual’s salary — the exact amount can vary country to country — with the remaining 20% going to the contract employee.
A local newspaper, La Nuova Calabria, reports that this will require CSMC to set up a branch office in Catanzaro, the regional capital.
The newspaper calculated the potential cost: “If the agreement is fully implemented, meaning that if all 497 doctors cited by Occhiuto were employed at the same time, their services would cost Calabria in excess of 2.3 million euros a month, or 28 million euros a year.”
The United States has added Cuba to its list of countries that do not meet international standards regarding to human trafficking, specifically as they concern Cuba’s international brigades. International organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Prisoners Defenders have accused the regime of holding its healthcare workers in conditions of forced labor.
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