Cuba Withdrawals Thousands of Doctors From Brazil
In a shocking decision, Cuba announced Wednesday that it is recalling thousands of doctors deployed to impoverished and remote regions of Brazil, as part of Brazil’s More Doctor program. Experts claim the recalling of doctors will deal a significant blow to the already unstable economy.
Cuba’s controversial decision occurred in Havana after Brazil’s far-right wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro criticized the communist countries treatment of medical professionals. Bolsonaro said in an interview that Cuban doctors should receive their full salary, and be allowed to bring their families to Brazil while they work there under the government-to-government arrangement.
Under the terms of the government agreement with Cuba, brokered by the Pan-American Health Organization, Havana receives the majority of doctor’s wages. Despite Havana acquiring most of the doctors' wages, the New York Times claims “The meager pay the visiting doctors earn is still significantly more than what they make at home.”
Cuba began deploying health professionals in 2013 as part of the More Doctors program started by Brazil’s former president Dilma Rousseff. The program provided medical services to communities who were underserved by Brazil’s health system.
The program aimed to serve residents in small towns, many who had gone years without seeing doctors.
In a November 2 interview with Brasília’s Correio Braziliense newspaper. Bolsonaro questioned the qualifications of the Cuban doctors and said they would have to renew their licenses in Brazil.
Cuba’s Health Ministry rejected Bolsonaro’s comments claiming they were “contemptuous and threatening to the presence of our doctors” in a statement announcing its withdrawal from the program.
“These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the program,” the Ministry said in a statement.
In his interview, Bolsonaro added that he met a Cuban doctor who was not allowed to bring her children with her. “Can you maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its own like that?”
Cuba’s direct response to the criticism was informing its doctors they have to leave Brazil.
Cuban doctors work in dozens of countries, the billions of dollars made from doctors working in other countries serve as the most important source of export earnings for the communist-run government.
According to Cuba’s Health Ministry, nearly 20,000 Cuban doctors have worked in Brazil since the program's formation five years ago. Collectively these doctors have treated more than 113 million patients. More than 60 million Brazilians have gained access to doctors due to the program.
However, in Brazil, many Cuban doctors have rebelled in recent years. Doctor have filed lawsuits in Brazilian courts demanding to be treated not as agents of the Cuban state but as independent contractors who should earn full salaries.
Bolsonaro said the program in Brazil could have continued if it complied with the conditions he discussed. “Unfortunately, Cuba did not accept,” he said in a Twitter post after the Cuban announcement. While Brazil will lose much needed medical aid, Cuba will lose millions of dollars and experience a weaker economy for years to come.