Brazil now looking for Portuguese, Spanish doctors, not Cubans

BRASILIA Mon Jul 8, 2013 5:48pm EDT

Doctors work in the tomography section of Havana's main cardiology and heart surgery hospital October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

Doctors work in the tomography section of Havana's main cardiology and heart surgery hospital October 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Desmond Boylan

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The Brazilian government, under pressure to improve public health services, has dropped plans to import a contingent of Cuban doctors and is instead looking to hire physicians in Spain and Portugal, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The plan to bring in Cuban doctors created a backlash because of questions about their qualifications. Brazilian medical associations argued that standards at Cuba's medical schools were lower than in Brazil and equivalent in some cases to a nursing education.

Brazil was rocked last month by massive protests fueled by frustration with a high cost of living and deplorable public transportation, education and health services, plus anger over the billions that will be spent to host the 2014 World Cup.

In response, President Dilma Rousseff is moving to expand public services, crack down on corruption and hold a non-binding national vote on political reform. Her push to improve services comes even as the government tightens the reins on overall spending in an effort to preserve fiscal responsibility.

On Monday, Rousseff unveiled a health plan that aims to fill the lack of physicians in rural communities and poor outskirts of Brazilian cities by hiring more local and foreign doctors.

"Every Brazilian must have access to a doctor," Rousseff said in a speech. "Brazil is short of doctors. If we don't have enough in Brazil, we will look for good doctors wherever they are."

In May, Brazil's government said it was in talks with Cuba to hire 6,000 Cuban doctors to serve in remote parts of the country where medical services are deficient or non-existent.

In the past decade, Cuba's communist government has sent 30,000 doctors to work in poor neighborhoods of Venezuela, Havana's closest political ally. Under an agreement reached back then with the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Cuba sent doctors in exchange for cheap oil.

Instead of a contingent of Cuban doctors, Brazil's Health Ministry will hire foreign doctors where needed on an individual basis. Each foreign doctor, a ministry official said, will individually apply to work in Brazil.

"We never reached a deal with Cuba. Now the priority is Spain and Portugal," the official said.

Cuban doctors can apply, he said, but ads offering doctors work in Brazil will be posted in Spain and Portugal, not in Cuba. The doctors will be paid 10,000 reais ($4,400) a month.

Last week, Brazilian doctors staged demonstrations in several cities opposing the hiring of foreign physicians. The government maintained that it will do so to fill gaps left by Brazilian doctors who prefer not to work in remote areas.

Rousseff said Brazilians will be offered the jobs first. "The goal is not to bring doctors from abroad but to provide more healthcare in the interior of Brazil," she said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Paulo Prada and Philip Barbara)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
VonHell wrote:
This government showed its limits… now it is shooting in all directions…
If you consider only in terms of votes:
47% are in favor, 48% against plus the medical class…
Since bringing in doctors to the remote corners of Brazil or the wild suburbs of the big cities without any other aditional investment would not change anything… you will lose even the 47%…
Lets see in terms of investments: The program received only 3Bi reais, less than US1.4Bi,… i imagine this will be barely enough until next years’ election… typical campaign slogan.
Lets see in terms of logic and responsibility: Increase the medical degree to 8 years? leaving students working on those remote areas without any resource or proper supervision for 2 years? Doubling the number of medical schools considering most of private ones are total trash? and the number of doctors is already 1.8/1000… above the recommended by WHO…
Over the past many politicians tried to “improve” the health system…
They asked the medical class what would be necessary… saw the $$$ bill and ran away… at least they had the good sense to ask…
The difference is that the guys from the unions making these “choices” think about any working class like the car factories’ class… defending only their own interests… well some provide services to the society… like teachers and doctors…
If you are going to run away from the $$$ bill… at least dont f everything…
I cant wait until the political reforms turn…

Jul 09, 2013 9:10am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.