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Cuban MDs Relocated from to Brazil
March 10, 2014
Wilfredo Cancio Isla

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban medical brigades stationed in Venezuela are
witnessing considerable reductions in personnel as a result of one of
Havana’s current priorities: Brazil’s Mas Medicos (“More Doctors”)
program, which has already hired over 11,000 thousand physicians from
the island.

The growing withdrawal of Cuban medical personnel from Venezuela has
become especially evident since the close of last year, when hundreds of
doctors were recalled by the Cuban Ministry of Public (MINSAP)
and reassigned to contingents deployed to render services in remote
settlements and rural areas in Brazil.

This strategy has prompted concerns and dissatisfaction among Cuban
health professionals still working in Venezuela, increasingly overworked
and paid lower wages than their colleagues who accept work in
neighboring Brazil.

“The fact is that Brazil requested a large number of doctors for its
health program, and, in order to meet the request, Cuba has had to
resort to the Cuban medical doctors who were already working here,” a
Cuban medical professional stationed in Venezuela told Diario de las
Americas. “They promised us they would send backup, but we don’t know
when and, for the time being, they’re making us work like mad.”

More Work and Sacrifice

The source complained their on duty night shifts are now every three
days and that many doctors have had to assume teaching responsibilities
at universities set up in Venezuela in response to the deficit in teachers.

“I’m one of two Cuban doctors now responsible for 20 doctor’s offices in
the area,” the doctor added, choosing to remain anonymous. “We’re
yanking our hair out. It’s a huge sacrifice and it isn’t worth our efforts.”

No official statistics on the number of Cuban medical professionals who
have left Venezuela since November of last year are known, but the
members of the internationalist mission claim over two thousand doctors
have been relocated.

Doctors for Brazil’s healthcare program were recruited directly from the
teams of Comprehensive General Medicine professionals stationed in
Venezuela. The recruits were urgently flown to Havana for a 2-month
crash training course which included Portuguese lessons as part of their
preparation for the Mas Medicos program impelled by Dilma Rousseff’s
government.

This week, an additional 4,000 Cuban medical doctors will to
Brazil to join the nearly 7,400 professionals already working in
municipalities in the country’s interior, indigenous settlements and
areas located at the periphery of large cities.

Good News in Brazil

In recent days, Cuban medical professionals working in Brazil received a
bit of good news: the Brazilian government has reached an agreement with
Cuban authorities and will increase their salaries to US $1,245 as of
this month. It is a considerable increase from the US $ 400 a month they
had been receiving until February. The actual wage increase is of US
$245. The remaining US $600, which had till then been deposited in an
account in Cuba, will now be paid directly to the doctors in Brazil.

Payments for Cuban medical personnel are made under an agreement signed
by the Brazilian Ministry of Public Health, the Pan-American Health
Organization (OPS) and Cuba’s Comercializadora de Servicios Medicos
Cubanos S.A. (“Cuban Medical Services Company”). A total of US $ 4,200 a
month is paid for each Cuban doctor.

Despite the controversy surrounding the salaries of Cuban doctors in
Brazil stirred up by the desertion of Dr. Ramona Matos Rodriguez this
past February, the amount paid these medical professionals is far higher
than that received by doctors working in Venezuela.

Cuban medical doctors stationed in Venezuela currently receive a monthly
salary of 3,000 bolivars, the equivalent of US $ 35. The Cuban
government also deposits between 200 and 225 Cuban Convertible Pesos
(CUC) in an account they can access only after fulfilling their contracts.

Waiting for a Raise

Following complaints over the limited remuneration and the high costs of
living in Venezuela, Cuban authorities promised a 100 CUC raise as of
February, but the increase has not yet become effective.

“People are killing themselves here and what they pay is dreadful,” a
Cuban medical doctor working in Venezuela’s state of Bolivar said. “A
two-year contract isn’t enough to save up any money, let alone to buy a
car or an apartment, what with the prices we’re seeing in Cuba today.”

A number of doctors approached concurred that services offered at
Venezuela’s Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (CDI) will suffer from the
loss of personnel.

Havana’s official discourse regarding medical brigades in Venezuela
remains the same:

“Cuban medical workers in Venezuela will continue to fulfill their
duties and to share in the struggle of the heroic people of Venezuela,
no matter the circumstances,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez
stated during an interview in Caracas.

Cuban authorities, however, are aware of the problem and have already
implemented emergency measures to alleviate the deficit of physicians in
the South American country.

Recruiting Deserters

In January, the provincial heads of Cuba’s medical mission in Venezuela
were called to a meeting and read a new provision that authorizes some
medical doctors who deserted to cover vacancies in Venezuela’s
cooperation program.

“They were instructed to contact people who left the mission but who
have been unable to travel to the United States and haven’t made
aggressive statements against the Cuban government,” a CDI official
said, choosing to remain anonymous. “The matter had been under
discussion for months and I didn’t think it possible they would take
those people back, but that’s what they have instructed.”

The measure applies to Cuban doctors who married in order to remain in
Venezuela or left the mission, who could be reincorporated following an
interview aimed at verifying that “they are honest people, that they
don’t have any political problems and aren’t opponents of Maduro’s
government,” the source revealed.

Thousands of Cuban medical doctors have deserted from international
cooperation missions, chiefly in Venezuela, under a special US
government program launched in 2006.

Currently, there are over 38,000 Cuban medical doctors, dentists and
health technicians working in 66 countries around the world. Most of
these health professionals – around 35,000 – were concentrated in
Venezuela until the close of 2013.

Picking Up the Pace

The high demand for medical services abroad has forced the Cuban
government to quickly broaden medical training programs at home.

Though general higher enrollment figures evince a downward
trend since the 2007-2008 year, enrollment in medical sciences
programs remains steady at the 13 universities and three independent
faculties around the country.

The total number of students enrolled in Cuba’s 6-year medical studies
program is upwards of 47,676, of which 37,302 are Cuban. Last school
year, some 12,905 new students enrolled in the medical sciences program,
roughly 31 percent of all programs offered in the country.

This week, the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education announced that an
additional 7,000 vacancies will be made available next school year,
chiefly in the medical sciences program.

“Even with so many of our physicians working abroad, we continue to have
one of the highest doctor-per-inhabitant ratio in the world,” Cuban
Minister of Public Health Roberto Morales Ojeda proudly stated during a
recent address before Cuba’s Council of Ministers.

Source: Cuban MDs Relocated from Venezuela to Brazil – Havana Times.org
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102326

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