José Alberto Gutiérrez* (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — The Brazilian Ministry of Health launched this month in Havana a training program for a group of Cuban doctors on call to serve under contract in the South American country.
Besides Portuguese classes, the training entails knowledge of the basic care provided by the Brazilian public health system and related legislation.
The teaching of the Portuguese language is provided by at least five professors from federal institutions: University of São Carlos, University of Minas Gerais, São Paulo University and University of Latin American Integration (UNILA) in Paraná. All teachers were relieved of their academic functions so they can give classes in Havana between August 1 and September 7.
A Reserve of Physicians
For the preparation of the Cuban doctors in areas of the Brazilian public health system, a physician and professor, specializing in family medicine and public health, traveled to Havana.
According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, there is no intention to increase the number of Cuban doctors in the country, from the current level of over 11,000. The course objective is to “create a reserve” to speed up the process of replacing doctors in the program who leave for various reasons such as resignation, desertion or insubordination, a spokesperson told CaféFuerte.
To date, at least 16 have defected from the Cuban mission in Brazil, three have died, one is accused of sexual harassment of pregnant patients, one doctor suffered a serious accident while riding in an ambulance and several dozens have decided to return to Cuba claiming personal problems.
In full campaign for re-election in the October elections, President Dilma Rousseff promised to increase the “More Doctors” program (which includes doctors from several countries led by Cuba), including specialists and providing access to laboratory tests.
Rousseff launched the program in August 2013 in response to the pressure exerted by the mass demonstrations in June of last year, which included demands for improvement of public services. The program seeks to bring medical care to underserved and remote areas. More Doctors is one of the chief campaign issues of the president in her attempt to win another term in office.
Meanwhile, the demand for Cuban doctors has spread to Ecuador, where a group of 200 of 1,000 requested by President Rafael Correa arrived last week to the Andean country. The MDs joined other 200 who arrived earlier this summer as part of a bilateral cooperation program.
The Cuban doctors will be placed in hospitals managed by the Ministry of Public Health and the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security. Some of them will fulfill a role similar to “More Doctors” in Brazil, serving in remote areas such as the Amazon region.
*Cuban journalist and executive editor of Terra Latin America and the United States. He lives in São Paulo.