HAVANA TIMES — A first contingent of 206 Cuban doctors arrived today in Brazil, of a total of 4,000 to participate in the Brazilian government program called “More Doctors”, designed to compensate for the lack of physicians in the poorest regions of the country, reported dpa news.
The Cubans arrived amid the hostile climate created by Brazilian medical associations who oppose both the entire program and recruiting Cubans in particular.
While the critics say the type of labor contract would be considered slave labor in Brazil, the Cubans say they are participating “in solidarity” with the population “not for money.”
“We are doctors by vocation and not for money. We work because our assistance is requested, not for a salary, in Brazil or anywhere else in the world,” said Nelson Rodriguez a family doctor, quoted by the newspaper “Folha Sao Paulo “.
The Brazilian medical associations question the collective contracting of the doctors via an agreement between the Brazilian government and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Under the agreement, the doctors will not receive their wages directly. PAHO will deliver the funds to the Cuban government which will then pay the doctors.
The associations note that the Cubans receive only a small portion of the salary stipulated for program participants, equivalent to 10,000 reals a month (about US $ 4,200), since part of the funds go to PAHO and another portion to the Cuban government.
For the Brazilian organizations the contract model being used is the equivalent of medical “slave labor” and described the government’s undertaking as “irresponsible” and “disrespectful”.
Also the Brazilian Labor Department questioned the Cuban labor contract, which the prosecutor Jose Ramos Pereira called “totally illegal” saying it violates the country’s labor laws and the Brazilian Constitution.
Meanwhile, the “Folha” Regional Councils of Medicine threatened to call the police at the time that Cuban doctors start work and warned that Brazilian physicians will not correct any errors committed by their Cuban colleagues, which they consider unqualified.
The 206 Cubans arrived today at Recife Airport in the northeast of the country. Thirty of them will remain in the capital of Pernambuco, while the rest of the group will journey to Brasilia.
Another 194 Cuban doctors are expected to arrive on Sunday. Along with 244 doctors from other countries, they will start on Monday the mandatory training course prior to beginning their basic health care work across the country.
The official Brazilian ABR news agency said the Cubans who arrived Saturday will be working in indigenous communities and other areas of the country that did not arouse interest among applicants from other countries, such as Spain and Portugal, to participate in the program.
Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha once again today refuted the criticism from the Brazilian physicians, who are unwilling to work in the poor isolated municipalities but don’t want the Cubans there either.
“Between today and tomorrow 400 very experienced Cuban doctors will arrive, 86 percent of them with over 16 years experience in international missions,” said the minister.
He stressed that the doctors “come to work in the 701 municipalities that no Brazilian or other foreign doctor chose” and said that his ministry assures “the quality of Cuban doctors.”
“That’s why we demanded that the doctors be experienced. They all have expertise in family medicine and other postgruade programs,” he added.