Brazil to bring in 4,000 doctors from Cuba

The move is part of a program aimed at covering healthcare needs in the country’s poor interior

Juan Arias
Rio de Janeiro -

The government of Brazil on Tuesday decided to hire 4,000 Cuban doctors, following several official denials and announcements that Spanish and Portuguese physicians would be given preference.

The goal is to make up for the lack of health professionals in the poverty-stricken inner regions of the country as well as urban peripheries, where Brazilian doctors are reticent to work. The government estimates that 15,460 medical experts will be required to cover the shortfall.

Of the 4,000 newly hired Cuban physicians, 400 will arrive in Brazil shortly, and the rest before year’s end. Brazil is investing 250 million dollars in the project.

The hiring of Cuban doctors had been announced, then denied by the government following protests by national physician associations. According to the Federal Medicine Council, this decision “does not respect legislation, violates human rights and puts the health of Brazilians at risk, especially those who live in poorer, more distant areas.” Brazilian doctors said from the beginning that they do not oppose the hiring of foreign experts as long as they pass a national qualification test and speak Portuguese. But these requirements will not be demanded of the Cuban doctors.

Medical associations claim that the problem is not so much a lack of doctors in Brazil (there are nearly 400,000 of them), as a lack of proper infrastructure to do their work in these poor, rural areas.

Rousseff's project

Hiring foreign doctors is part of the “More doctors” program launched by President Dilma Rousseff, offering good economic conditions for physicians who decide to work where others have little inclination to do so. Medical workers in these areas will receive a grant of 10,000 reales a month (around $4,200) as well as a stipend for living expenses. To remain eligible, grant holders may not move to other cities. The three-year contract is renewable for another three.

But for now, this call for 15,400 doctors has only been heeded by 1,618, representing only 10 percent of the total. The majority of the successful candidates, 67 percent, were trained in Brazil, and the rest elsewhere.

Meanwhile, of the 3,511 municipalities which requested doctors through the program, only 579 made the cut. Brazilian doctors who applied also requested to work in coastal cities rather than inland destinations. The Cuban doctors will be stationed in these other, less desired locations.

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