Cuba Contracts Out MDs to Panama to Fight Covid-19

The Cuban doctors arriving in Panama to work in the Covid-19 treatment at hospitals.

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – A brigade of 220 Cuban doctors arrived in Panama last week to take part in that country’s effort to mitigate the Covid-19 health crisis. Panama is one of the countries of the Americas with the most positive cases per million inhabitants.

The December 27th data shows 233,705 cases and 3,892 deaths from Covid in the country of 4.2 million inhabitants. The most affected areas of the country are the capital Panama City, West Panama Province and Chiriqui in the west.

Panamanian Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced the arrival of “The medical reinforcements for the Health System. They are here to contribute to the high demand in our hospitals.” He added, “They are all specialists in different fields, intensive care, internal medicine, pulmonology, cardiologists, respiratory therapists.” 

“There are also specialized nurses,” noted Alessandro Ganci an advisor to the Panamanian Health Ministry.

The Cuban doctors are not the only foreign MDs in the battle.  Doctors from the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela are also under contract. The government is also trying to convince more Panamanian doctors to join the effort.

Good business for the Cuban government

Besides tourism and family remittances, contracting out Cuban medical personnel has been one of the top three income generators for the Castro-Diaz Canel government. Recently the business is again on the rise. New contracts with the governments in Mexico and now Panama are part of those countries Covid mitigation efforts.

The business is so profitable because the doctors only receive a portion of the payments. Often, the lion’s share goes right into the Cuban state coffers. The government says the profits go to paying for health services for the island’s population. 

The doctors contracted out do receive more than the small salaries they receive for working in Cuba. They try to live as frugally as possible to take money home, for many, the main reason for going.

Over the years, thousands of Cuban doctors abandoned their “missions” in dozens of countries and sought asylum. They often describe their exploitation as modern-day slavery. The Cuban government counters that they contract out of their own free will.

Meanwhile, the governments and populations on the receiving end of the Cuban health missions benefit from dedicated full-time personnel known for doing a conscientious job.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

7 thoughts on “Cuba Contracts Out MDs to Panama to Fight Covid-19

  • Nick, the failings of the US Healthcare delivery system are an easy target fir anyone with half a brain and a desire to criticize the most powerful country in the world. The lack of affordable healthcare to Americans does not excuse the modern-day slavery practices by the Castro dictatorship in their export of medical services. The fact that Cuba severely underpays its medical personnel to increase their profits is not a result of health care policy in the US. Americans who choose to criticize the Castro dictatorship’s crimes against humanity can and do also criticize the weaknesses in US health care. This is far from hypocrisy. These are two mutually exclusive subjects. This blog is about Cuba. If you want to share your gripe about health care in the US you should do so elsewhere.

  • It is interesting to see the views of some U.S. citizens on Cuba’s healthcare and the policy of exporting healthcare expertise in order to bring revenue into Cuba.

    Let it not go unsaid that ‘healthcare’ in the USA is one of the all time greatest scams that has ever been perpetrated by one set of human beings against another.
    The viewpoint from more rational and progressive parts of the world is one of astonishment.
    Why do the good folk of the USA put up with this almighty rip-off??
    Surely a second Revolution is required to rid the wonderful USA of this ugly and heinous crime against its own citizenry??
    The only way this disgraceful practice manages to continue is by channelling a certain percentage the dirty profits into drip-drip propaganda which gleefully describes any rational or civilised alternative as some kind of socialist evil or the work of god hating satanists.
    Therefore any U.S. citizen criticising the healthcare set up of pretty much any other country on God’s earth is a automatically a hypocrite from the get-go.

    Just bear in mind the following juxtaposed facts:
    Cuba exports healthcare to countries that could sure use some healthcare.
    The USA exports lethal weaponry to countries that are sure gonna use some lethal weaponry.
    And yet still some good ‘ol US patriots are so terminally brainwashed and deluded that they still try to assume some kind of moral high ground.
    Astonishing. Truly astonishing !!!

    I know for an absolute fact that there are are a great many good people in the USA who would agree with every word that I am saying here. God bless ya all.

    I wish a fruitful and safe 2021 to everyone.

  • Happy Holidays John! Your comparisons are faulty. Peace Corp volunteers, when asked to “store” their passports in a central office, do so for their personal security. In many countries, despite the excellent reputation these volunteers have earned through their efforts to improve living conditions in their host country, remain targets for criminals who still believe that a stolen passport may have value on the black market. For Cuban medical staff, passports are “confiscated” in order to slow the pace of these staff in their efforts to escape Castro tyranny. Peace Corp volunteers are typically young people who don’t have families to support back in the US and willingly accept the low pay in exchange for the opportunity to travel and do something good for people who need help. Finally, the so-called “free” medical education you speak of is anything but. Cuban incomes are taxed at more than 97%. The education that Cubans receive in general, as well as their health care and all other social services that don’t require a pay at the point of service comes at a very high price. Not the least of which is their personal, social and political freedoms.

  • John, the figure could be in the tens of thousands but from numerous reports thousands is enough to get the message accross. The Cuban doctors abandoning their contracts takes place under both Republican and Democratic Party presidents and dates back many decades. Your analogies are false in the eyes of most Cubans. Doing a social service for 1 to 3 years is one thing, but lifetime servitude is another. Most of the Cubans going abroad are family people and have several years, if not decades of experience, working for $60 USD a month or less at government facilities. The admirable Peace Corps volunteer work you did was a totally different situation. The fact that US administrations try to undermine one of the Cuban government’s most lucrative revenue earners is another issue. And I totally agree that it takes place without any interest in humanitarian issues, neither for the Cubans nor the beneficiaries of their work.

  • Cuban doctors have received a completely free medical education. In that sense their service is analogous to American doctors who work for the US public health service to cover medical school costs.

    Are they forced to go abroad? Some no doubt see it as an act of human solidarity, others do it for reasons of professional advancement or material benefit despite the differential of income from host country payment.

    Another analogy is the Peace Corps. When I was a volunteer in Peru, I was paid at local not expat salary levels and my passport was held in the Peace Corps national office in Lima. At that point, it was against the rules for family members to visit us in country.

    Circles, what is your source that, “thousands of Cuban doctors abandoned their ‘missions'”? As you know, the Bush Administration created a program to induce such abandonment, the Obama Administration ended it, and Trump reinstated it.

    Undermining a humanitarian program for political reasons is a moral disgrace, as are the State Department’s propaganda attacks on Cuban teams that assist against Covid.

  • Mr Patterson, the writer does not want to show the bad side of the story, that is why we only get these “rosy” reports on cuba, cause he is one of the left reporters who sells his pen to this dictatorship that he calls “government”

  • Thank you Circles for bringing this information to HT. Some of the details left out of the article include the practice of the Castro dictatorship to confiscate the passports of the Cuban health professionals while on mission. The government also sells food and hygiene products to their staff at prices intended to generate profits for the Castro dictatorship. Finally, in those cases where in-country medical staff have spouses in Cuba who would like to travel to Panama to visit their spouse, their permission to travel is usually denied. The paranoia of the Castro dictatorship is aluve and well and impacting the capacity of Cuban medical professionals to effectively respond to the COVID pandemic.

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