Statement by Yaira Jiménez Roig, Director of Communications of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba upon Cuba’s decision to discontinue its participation in the “More Doctors for Brazil” Program.

Cuban Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’ Statements

Good morning

I would like to greet those who are connected to the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba to receive updated information about our country’s decision to discontinue its participation in the “More Doctors” program as well as further details about the return to Cuba of the health professionals who were working in Brazil or who are still in that nation.

As in former transmissions I remind you that this program is being broadcast live in Spanish and, once it concludes, it will be aired in Portuguese and English.

First of all I would like to reiterate that Cuba did not create the present situation. The decision adopted by our country not to continue participating in the “More Doctors” program was a painful but necessary decision, for it is Cuba’s responsibility and priority to ensure the physical integrity and personal safety of its cooperation workers wherever they might be, which is of vital importance in the present context in Brazil, characterized by uncertainty and the doubtful professionalism of the elected government.

The irresponsible attitude and the political manipulation of this issue by Jair Bolsonaro, the president-elect of Brazil, forced Cuba to take a decision that, most certainly, will affect millions of Brazilian families, particularly low-income families, who live in the poorest and faraway areas, in the communities with less resources, those who do not make headlines in the mainstream media and are hardly taken into account when it comes to political interests.

To those families and the Brazilian people we would like to express our full solidarity.

I insist that the current situation, which has led to the unfortunate circumstances that make it impossible for Cuba to continue its cooperation in Brazil, is the exclusive responsibility of the Brazilian government which will take office next January 1st. I would like to inform that since the beginning of the return of Cuban doctors on November 22 last, more than 4 000 are already in Cuba in as many as 20 flights from Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Manaos and Salvador de Bahía.  The schedule of the flights has been met as planned, without any inconvenience.

As we have stated, this is a swift and orderly return, and by the end of the year, all the Cuban health staff will be back in our country.

Cuban health professionals return feeling proud of the work done.  They feel grateful to the Brazilian people for the experience shared and the expressions of love with which they were bid farewell, as well as for the respect and admiration of the Brazilian colleagues with whom they shared, which speaks very highly about the work carried out by our professionals. They have arrived in our country with great worries about that people and those patients who will be left without their services.

The Cuban doctors who are returning from Brazil will rejoin the national health system under conditions similar to the ones they had before leaving for Brazil.  Their work in all the provinces of the country will contribute to solve health problems and guarantee epidemiological stability in our communities and continue to consolidate our health indicators through an efficient use of the available resources.

In fact, in provinces like Santiago de Cuba, an important number of those who arrived in first are already offering their services to the people at their offices. Like in the case of other professionals in our country, if they wish, they will be able to accomplish a medical mission in other regions of the world.

As we reported in our former broadcast, this group of professionals who are returning to our country will be offered the possibility to study languages or a new medical specialization.

We will now answer some of the questions that we have received through the e-mail (link sends e-mail), which we made available to the media.

We will now have a short break and be back soon.

The first answer is for José Manzaneda, coordinator for Cuba Información TV, from Spain, who’s asking: where is the Cuban state investing the revenue from these programs? We also received a similar question from Yaima Rodriguez, from Sputnik World.

First of all, it has to be said that the Cuban medical cooperation takes place on the basis of sharing in solidarity the benefits between the individuals participating directly and the rest of the population with a view to strengthening Cuba’s health system. These resources are rechanneled into the universal, free of charge and quality services provided by the health system to 11 million Cubans. These resources are for all, for the people.

Cuban cooperation workers have a vocation of solidarity and they would rather share the benefits for the common good of their country instead of taking a selfish and individualist position. This is something that is done not only by Cuban cooperation workers in Brazil but also by other health professionals who are serving in various countries that are paying for the provision of health services by Cuba.

For example, I can say that the voluntary contributions made by Cuban health cooperation workers have contributed to financing the repair and renovation of polyclinics and several provincial hospitals. By the end of 2017, repair and maintenance actions had been performed on more than 2700 medical offices and 327 polyclinics.

They have made possible the purchase of supplies and inputs, medicines and equipment for major health programs such as the fight against cancer.

Thirty-one new and state-of-the-art techniques and technologies have been introduced. As part of this process of technology procurement and renovation, over 5 000 medical equipment were imported, amounting to a total value in excess of 32.5 million dollars. In this connection, priority was given to areas including, surgery, anesthesia, the mother and child program and the care for gravely ill patients, among others.

The cooperation workers contributions have helped to fund the material needs of the free education in Cuba of physicians from much poorer countries, training nearly 36 000 doctors in 55 years.

In addition, more than 96 million medical consultations were handled, 6 480 369 more than in the previous year; surgical procedures performed reached more than one million —for the seventh year in a row—, the highest figure ever with 1 085 623 surgeries, which is also partly due to the support of international medical cooperation to the world.

§    Let us go back to an issue that was discussed in the previous broadcast when we had as a guest Dr. Jorge Delgado Bustillo, Director of the Central Unit for Medical Cooperation of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health. This continues to raise interest among the media, and concerns the stipend that Cuban doctors get in Brazil.

It is important to say that Cuban cooperation workers are not receiving a salary because they are not employed by Brazil’s health system; they are providing their specialized services in primary health care in Brazil, which is what is allowed under the federal law of the More Doctors program.

What Cuban cooperation workers do receive in Brazil is a stipend for personal expenses and the More Doctors Program pays for their meals, housing, transportation and medical insurance, which becomes part of their income.

In Cuba, the Ministry of Public Health pays 100% of the salaries of these cooperation workers, their jobs here are kept, and they maintain all labor and social benefits that they are entitled to as workers of Cuba’s national health system; furthermore, the protection and necessary care for their families are also maintained.

It is important to mention that Cuban cooperation workers participate in the More Doctors program freely and on the basis of a personal choice. They sign a contract with the Ministry of Public Health under which they voluntarily choose to share in revenue to strengthen Cuba’s health system. We have already explained in the answer to the previous question where the Cuban state puts the revenue obtained as part of the international medical cooperation.

In this connection, I reaffirm that the core values governing Cuba’s medical cooperation are humanism, altruism and solidarity. These are the values accompanying the 34 000 Cuban medical professionals who now serve in 67 countries, and the values accompanying 600 000 internationalist missions in 164 nations over 55 years, involving more than 400 000 Cuban health cooperation workers.

No money can buy what our professionals are doing.

Examples abound, feats like fighting Ebola in Africa, blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean, cholera in Haiti, and the deployment of 26 brigades of the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Doctors Specialized in Disasters and Large Epidemics in several countries, that speaks volumes for commitment and capacity of professionals and bear witness to the humanist essence of Cuba’s medical cooperation.

Reporters from around the world have asked about future cooperation missions for these and other Cuban cooperation workers in specific countries.

Cuban doctors have proved more than once to be ready to provide their services to any people in need, as they have to people and government of the United States on the occasion of Hurricane Katrina.

Well known is the devotion and quality of the service of Cuban medical cooperation workers, their exceptional conditions as doctors and as human beings. Cuba’s international medical cooperation will continue.

There have been very imaginative reports on this issue.

In this connection, I have to say that Cuba offered the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) their experiences, specialized human resources, medical universities and the products of the pharma and biotech industries to reach the desired goal of health for all; consequently, the Cuban cooperation is not limited to any one specific country.

In the field of health, more than anywhere else, Cuba continues to work under the tenet expressed by the leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, namely, to share what we have and not the leftovers.

When the commitment to universal medical coverage is still an outstanding issue for many, 407 000 Cuban professionals have been present in 164 countries from all continents, in addition to the more than 35 000 youths from 126 nations who have taken medical education in our Homeland.

Cuba understands that the responsibility of health systems goes beyond curing, and includes warning and protecting, which requires its inclusion in governmental and multi-sectoral policies. Hence our commitment to the values of the 2030 Agenda to achieve its goals of sustainable development as a challenge and opportunity to reach better health system and provide wellbeing to the population.

At any rate, there will always be places and countries where are doctors are necessary. And there will always be governments who respect them and treat them with dignity.

With this question we come to the end of this broadcast. The email address (link sends e-mail) will remain active for your questions.

You are kindly invited to check us out again next week. I thank you all for your attention and I remind you that soon the English and Portuguese versions of this broadcast will be made available.

I thank you very much and have a good day.