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.