HAVANA TIMES — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff publicly apologized today to Cuban doctor Juan Delgado, who received insults upon his arrival in the country to work as part of a contingent of Cuban physicians hired to work in areas where health services are precarious.
Rousseff offered her apology “personally and on behalf of my government,” for the way Delgado was treated, reported dpa news.
The president signed on Tuesday the “More Doctors” program unveiled in August by the government and approved last week by Congress. The vote opens the way to officially “import” doctors from other countries to act in areas where no Brazilian doctors are willing to provide services.
In her speech, Rousseff said that the medical professionals from other countries who are prepared to work in Brazil “very well represent the great American nation.”
“When we look at them we are seeing Brazilians represented in each of them. They came from afar to help Brazil to have a health policy able to bring this essential service to all Brazilians. I thank each of you,” she told the around 600 foreign doctors who participated in the ceremony in Brasilia.
The new law permits the Brazilian Ministry of Health to grant an authorization document so that foreign doctors can work in Brazil, which until now was an exclusive right of the National Council of Medicine.
The “More Doctors” program is thus far Rousseff ‘s main response to the mass protests that rocked the country in June, during the FIFA Confederations Cup, demanding better public health, education and transportation services and less spending in preparation for World Cup Brazil 2014 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The measure, however, was controversial among Brazilian physicians who centered their criticism on the arrival in the country of about 4,000 Cuban doctors, based on a three party agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the government in Havana.
The main resistance to the “import” of Cubans targeted primarily the fact that a portion of the payment to these doctors, between US $4,200 and $ 10,600 a month, will go to the coffers of the Cuban state.
The indignation of Brazilian physicians peaked with open hostilities against the Cubans. In the northeastern city of Fortaleza, for example, a group of Brazilian medical professionals greeted their Cuban colleagues with shouts of “Slaves.”
Faced with criticism generated by the hostile act, the president of the Ceará Physicians Association, Jose Maria Pontes, said the boos were “not directed” at the Cubans, but the Brazilian government, where “the absurd idea of bringing these doctors, even with slave labor” originated.
Dr. Juan Delgado, one of those insulted in Fortaleza, responded calmly to the insults. He said that he and his Cuban colleagues were “slaves of the health of sick patients” and said that their Brazilian counterparts “should do the same as us, go to the poorest regions to provide services.”