HAVANA TIMES — Cuban doctors in the process of revalidating their professional degrees in the United States scored an important victory Thursday.
The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), which certifies graduates from other countries, announced it hadnreceived approval from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department to proceed with the processing of applications for revalidation, interrupted since July 2.
The ban affected doctors from Cuba, Crimea and Sudan, countries where federal authorities face difficulties in relating to their institutions.
“As previously announced, ECFMG was not processing applications, pending the approval of its license for Cubans by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Treasury Department of the United States. Today, ECFMG has been informed that OFAC has approved the license application,” said a notice released by the organization.
The freezing of the processing of applications extended for 14 days.
Relief for hundreds of doctors
An OFAC spokesperson confirmed the granting of a federal license to continue the process of medical revalidation.
The announcement was a huge relief for hundreds of Cuban doctors, especially those who recently arrived in US territory and who are in various stages of validating their titles to restart their careers in this country.
Solidarity Without Borders (SSF), an organization which sponsors the improvement and reinsertion of Cuban and Hispanic physicians in the United States, welcomed the news.
“Solidarity Without Borders is particularly grateful to Senator Marco Rubio, and Cuban Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, personalities and political and community institutions and all those who in some way have contributed to the solution of this problem,” said one statement from the group, based in Hialeah.
The doctors concerned mobilized as soon as they learned of the ban and collected hundreds of signatures in support of an online open letter, demanding a solution to ECFMG and authorities of the Treasury.
“Given that a similar situation could be repeated and the cumbersome, expensive and complicated revalidation process for doctors and dentists graduated in other countries, SSF will continue promoting a bill in Florida to facilitate a single exam revalidation for foreign doctors and dentists,” said the organization headed by Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso.
An additional concern
Now with this problem resolved, the concerns of Cuban physicians focus on the special program for deserters on international missions. Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of Cuban doctors are stranded in third countries awaiting US visas after invoking the so-called Cuban Medical Professional Program (CMPP) shelter program for professionals, implemented by the US government in 2006.
Besides delays, some doctors have been prevented from traveling after their visas were suspended before boarding the plane.
The concern of the doctors seeking refugee status is based on the fact that Cuba has asked the United States to dismantle the CMPP which Havana calls an instrument of “brain drain” that goes against the normalization of bilateral relations. Officials close to the White House have suggested that the program would be under review.
More than 9,000 Cuban health professionals have benefited from the program, devised under the administration of George W. Bush.