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Cuba tells doctors still in Brazil return would be welcomed

By
Renzo Pipoli
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks at the 73rd General Debate at the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on September 26, 2018. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel speaks at the 73rd General Debate at the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on September 26, 2018. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Cuban doctors who left the Caribbean island nation to work abroad -- but didn't return when they were called back late last year -- would be welcomed back in their homeland, Cuban media reported.

However, Cuban health officials said Tuesday they can't offer work to the doctors who chose to stay abroad, Cuban newspaper Granma reported. It's unknown exactly how many Cuban doctors remain in Brazil, where many went starting earlier this decade when a government-to-government was put in place under which Cuban doctors moved to Brazil. The program offering care to low-income Brazilians abruptly ended in November, when Cuba called back all doctors.

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The Granma report did not give other details regarding the future, or number, of Cubans who decided to stay in Brazil.

The Brazilian Health Ministry said it's filled all positions for the Mais Medicos program, including 1,400 filled by Brazilian nationals who studied abroad, G1 reported. The positions are part of 8,500 positions that opened when a similar number of Cuban professionals left Brazil in November.

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The program was meant to bring revenue to the Cuban government and bolstered its public image, The New York Times reported in 2017.

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However, doctors can make more money working independently, leading to dissatisfaction, the Times reported.

At least 150 lawsuits over the program were filed in Brazilian courts in the 12 months leading up to the Times report, according to the newspaper.

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Cuban doctors, who attended Cuban universities at no cost, receive little money from the government for the work, compared to what physicians in countries like the United States make. Under the Cuban system, the income earned by the program's physicians goes into the national budget.

Collective compensation was agreed between the governments and Cubans received a payment only through Havana.

With the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the arrangement was no longer possible as the Brazilians have in place a different deal under which Brazil negotiates terms with doctors directly. The qualifications of the doctors are now also certified by the Brazilian government.

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Many health outposts, particularly those in remote communities, were the most affected by the transition.

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