Departure Of Cuban Doctors Leave Countryside Public Clinics Scrambling

In Bahia, nurses take over physicians' duties, and patients give up their treatments

Marina Estarque
Sítio do Quinto, Antas, Euclides da Cunha (BA)

Retired plowman Adelaidio Andrade, 61, says that his wife "one day lifted a pot full of beans and lost her health." That's how he describes the moment Luzia, 54, had a stroke while cooking.

The stroke's consequences left her with half of her body paralyzed and one hand, deformed, and she has difficulty to walk and speak. She now receives a disability benefit. "She became crippled and can't talk anymore," explains Adelaidio.

The couple lives in Jardim, a rural district in Sítio do Quinto, in the deep Bahia backcountry, around 250 miles away from the capital Salvador.

People wait for consultations at the public clinic in Antas, a village close to Sítio do Quinto - Folhapress

After the Cuban withdrawal from the Mais Médicos program, the nearest public clinic to Luzia's house, in the nearby village of Tingui, was left with no doctor. The situation meant that improvisations, already a staple of the area's healthcare routine, only got worse.

Nurses are taking over physicians' duties, ambulances are often taking residents to clinics in other towns, and many patients give up their treatments because the nearest doctor is too far away for them.

In Luzia's case, the Cubans departure is endangering her access to the medication she needs to avoid seizures -- she expects to run out of it on Thursday (28th).

Along with other municipalities in the Bahia countryside, Sítio do Quinto lost almost all its doctors with the Cuban withdrawal. From the five physicians from Mais Médicos, only one, a Brazilian, is left, but his clinic is in an accessible area.

The Ministry of Health says that the national notice to replace the Cuban doctors had already filled 8,345 of the 8,517 open positions -- 98% of the total.

The new doctors are expected to present themselves to their appointed postings until December 14th. ​

Translated by NATASHA MADOV
Read the article in the original language​​