Brazil Was In Dire Situation Before Cuban Doctors, Says PAHO Representative

Representative Joaquín Molina said he knew that the Cuba withdrawal was a possibility

Natália Cancian

For the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Brazil Joaquín Molina, the arrival of Cuban physicians in Brazil to work in the Mais Médicos program was an emergency solution to a moment where the country "was in a dire situation" with the lack of doctors in rural Brazil.

According to Molina, who works in Brazil since 2012 and followed the program since the beginning, "it was obvious that foreign doctors were needed."

"When Brazil created Mais Médicos, the country was in a dire situation, with thousands of positions available, but either vacant or partially filled."

Five years later, he says that the high number of foreign doctors in areas where no Brazilian physicians are not interested in going shows that the problem of scarcity and uneven distribution of healthcare professionals persists.

Cuban physician Dixan Escalona Salazar sees a patient in a public clinic in São Vendelino (RS), in 2014 - Folhapress

On November 14th, Cuba announced its withdrawal from Mais Médicos. The country blamed the decision on Bolsonaro's tweets about changes to the Cuban doctors’ contracts.

Molina says that the possibility of a Cuban exit was expected and that PAHO had contingency plans in place in case it had to set up the Cuban physicians' departures. "The decision came from Cuba, but it didn't come as a surprise. It would be challenging for them to stay in the current conditions."

Molina also rebuts the criticism about the training received by the Cuban doctors who worked at Mais Médicos. Molina had a degree in odontology from his native Cuba before specializing in international health issues and joining PAHO in Washington in 1989.

"They are seasoned physicians. Cuban never sent to Brazil doctors fresh out of medical school. It sent only professionals with years of experience."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV
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