Thousands of Cuban Doctors to Brazil: And For Us, What? / Yaremis Flores

HAVANA, Cuba, September, – Since Cuba announced on August 24th the medical cooperation agreement with Brazil, Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, has reported on the front page the arrival of groups of physicians in that country.

All the stories omitted the fact that the offering of “solidarity and love” will pay about $4,200 per month per doctor, according to disclosures by Brazilian authorities.

The National Federation of Physicians of the South American country said the Cuban professionals “will receive a fraction of that.” Some Brazilian organizations have characterized the Cuban collaboration as slave labor.

“Typically the monthly payment received by Cuban doctors is less than $100,” said Yasser Rojas, a Cuban doctor who works with civil society organizations.

Nevertheless, physicians are competing to be selected to go on international missions. Every year thousands of them are posted outside Cuba to provide services, in order to give their families a slightly more prosperous life.

The source said that a general practitioner practicing on the island earns a monthly salary of 480 to 535 pesos in national currency (about $20).

“The doctor’s thinking is: I will sacrifice myself for a while, I will get my usual salary, I will save the payment for the collaboration and the food allowance, together with the gifts that patients offer, for a phone or even a plasma TV,” he said.

Analysts believe that the export of professionals, mainly doctors, provides the principal income of the country, about six billion dollars annually. As the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Public Health said, “Cuba does not export doctors, Cuba exports health services.”

Brazil is one of the nearly 30 countries that receive Cuban medical services for a fee, out of a total of 58.

More doctors in Brazil, fewer doctors in Cuba

“A contingent of 4,000 professionals will arrive in Brazil through the end of 2013,” according to a press release from the Ministry of Public Health of the island. Meanwhile the quality of health services on the island continues to deteriorate, although according to the World Health Organization, Cuba has the highest number of doctors per capita in the world: one per 148 inhabitants.

Government officials recently informed the United Nations, “The National Health System in Cuba, through the governmental and social character of medicine, and universal free access to health services, has been instrumental in raising the health indicators of the entire population, particularly those of women and children.”

There are no polls or surveys to give an idea of popular discontent with medical care. Complaints can be heard daily in any hospital waiting room in the country.

Regla Ríos suffered the negligence of the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Havana. His minor grandson was admitted for an infected insect bite on his foot. “They prescribed a drug that is for vision, his condition deteriorated, and we waited for him to get better, otherwise they had to operate,” he lamented.

Another elderly woman, who declined to be identified, said that she went to the Mario Escalona Polyclinic in Alamar to make an appointment with a specialist and they gave her one for almost two months later. The lady, in her seventies, said “I could die by then!”

Dr. Rojas asserted that, “Every day it’s harder for the ordinary citizen to find a good specialist, because they have an excess of daily consults, or have emigrated, or are abroad for the collaboration programs.”

“In the end, it’s the people who suffer the worse of it,” Regla commented pessimistically. “With the missions, the doctors at least excel professionally and strengthen the economy. For it’s part, the Government receives economic benefits and international respect.”

And for us, what?

From Cubanet

4 September 2013