Mexico: Cuban Doctors Needed

La Jornada Editorial on May 17, 2022

Cuban doctors march in May 1 solidarity demonstration, photo: Bill Hackwell

Last Monday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that during his visit to Cuba a health agreement was signed that includes the hiring of more than 500 doctors from the island to face the deficit that our country has, particularly in the most vulnerable areas; the sending of Mexican general practitioners to that nation to be trained in specialties and the importation of the Cuban vaccine against covid-19 to be applied in children.

The President said that Mexico has a shortage of general practitioners and specialists due to the neoliberal policies that left thousands of aspiring medical students out of public education, and AMLO also pointed out that sometimes the problem in bringing health services to the population is not the lack of hospitals, but of professionals willing to work in those located in areas with high poverty rates.

In response, representatives of more than 30 colleges, associations and federations of medical specialists published a letter addressed to the President, in which they reject the intention to hire Cuban doctors as “a serious offense against Mexican health professionals”. In addition to considering the federal government’s decision as “an insult to the Mexican medical profession”, they affirmed that the foreign doctors “do not have the required competencies, do not have duly specified functions, do not meet the requirements established by the laws in force and lack the endorsement of the professional associations”.

The reaction of these medical organizations has been taken up and magnified by politicians and the Mexican right-wing media, in a true exhibition of the hysteria against the Cuban revolution that characterizes these groups. Shamefully, animosity towards the Cuban government has taken precedence over the needs of millions of Mexicans who do not have access to health services, either because of the lack of professionals or because of their refusal to work in the communities where their presence is required.

It is enough to point out that, according to the Ministry of Health, our country has a deficit of 200,000 doctors -at least 123,000 in general medicine and 76,000 in specialties- to realize the urgency of reinforcing the staff of health workers in the public sector, and that the number of Cuban doctors is minimal to have any impact on the employment prospects of Mexican doctors. Moreover, the extreme pettiness of those who reject the presence of professionals from the island leads them to absurdities such as questioning the competencies of those who have been trained in a tradition whose quality and spirit of solidarity are internationally recognized.

For example, in 2017 the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade received the Dr. Lee Jong-wook Public Health Award from the World Health Organization (WHO) for disseminating “a message of hope to the whole world” by treating more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries that faced many of the worst natural disasters and epidemics since its creation in 2005.

Nor can it be forgotten that, during the first stage of the pandemic, Cuba sent 700 doctors to our country, whose participation was crucial to prevent the collapse of health services at the height of the health emergency, so the posture towards the island’s health professionals should be, in the first place should be one of gratitude.

It is to be hoped that the displays of xenophobia and ideological blindness do not affect the work of the Cuban doctors, since this will be for the benefit of the right to health of Mexicans, and in particular of those who face greater marginalization.

Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English