|BRAZIL, FACING HEALTH-CARE CRISIS, IMPORTS CUBAN DOCTORS|
Aruba, September 2, 2013 — Since the 1960s, Cuba has deployed an army of doctors by the tens of thousands to the world’s most inhospitable corners, from Haiti to Africa’s killing fields to the ultra-violent barrios of Venezuela. Now, thousands of Cubans are heading to relatively affluent Brazil to shore up a decrepit health-care system that has become a national embarrassment.
Two months after mass protests against the substandard condition of public health and other services, President Dilma Rousseff’s government has signed a deal to bring 4,000 Cubans by the end of the year to serve for three years in forlorn outposts where health officials say Brazilian doctors will not work. Under the contract, Brazil will pay the island’s cash-starved government $4,200 a month per doctor, or $200 million annually.
But the government’s plan has its doubters. Among them is Aline Lais Ribeiro, 17, who on a recent day waited three hours to see the lone doctor working a 24-hour shift in a shabby clinic in this gritty Sao Paulo suburb, one of the 700 towns where Cuban doctors will be assigned. She asked why the government has not put resources into building a quality health-care system to match Brazil’s developed-world pretensions.
“The service is terrible,” Ribeiro said, adding that it would take two months to see a specialist for what she believed to be a urinary infection. “I think it’s wrong. They should bring doctors from this area.”