Building an ambulatory in the most remote corners of Brazil is much easier than getting a doctor to settle there to care for patients.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced on Monday the reactivation of a program called Mais Médicos, created almost a decade ago with the aim of bringing medical care to the most underserved areas of the country.
Since a large part of the specialists recruited at the beginning were Cubans hired through an agreement with Castroism, the program was dragged down by controversy and polarization until the agreement with Cuba was broken after the ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro came to power.
Lula has announced the call for 15,000 places for this year, with preference for Brazilians educated at home, without closing the door on accepting foreigners.
Lula and his Minister of Health, Nísia Teixeira, have relaunched the program during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia.
“Only those who live on the outskirts of large cities, in small towns in the interior, know what the absence of a doctor is, for someone to start with a small headache and to die because no one gave them an appointment,” said the president, who was born in one of those places, in the interior of the state of Pernambuco.
Lula has stressed that the important thing is that the patient is treated, not the nationality of the specialist who does it.
Mais Médicos is one of the emblematic programs of the Workers' Party (PT) and, according to the leader of the Brazilian left, its results were a success.
But it languished during the Bolsonaro era.
In its early years, a good part of those hired were Cuban professionals, the only ones who accepted the positions that local doctors did not want, the least desirable.
Right now there are 5,000 vacancies in the poorest Brazil or those far from urban centers, and in the most hostile peripheries.
Some municipalities offer very high salaries in order to attract talent for public health clinics.
If the Brazilian government finds candidates for the 15,000 positions, the contingent of doctors sent to the most remote places and least appreciated by professionals will increase to 28,000 in a country that is twice the size of the European Union and has 210 million inhabitants spread over more of 5,000 municipalities.
The hiring of Cubans has always displeased the local medical class, among other things because that contingent was exempt from revalidating their title.
On behalf of the Cubans, Bolsonaro put him at the center of the political debate.
When he assumed power, the far-right government demanded to be able to pay doctors their salaries directly and not, as was done until then, through the Cuban authorities.
A Cuban professional explained years ago that the regime kept 70% of the salary.
Havana rejected the demand and its specialists returned home.
Cuba then reported that the 20,000 doctors sent over the years had treated almost 120,000 patients in 3,600 municipalities, often isolated.
Among the incentives that the Government has included in the call for 15,000 jobs, four-year contracts, special scholarships for permanence, aid to pay student debts and even a 20-day paternity leave, the latter an advance compared to what the Brazilian law establishes
"Every time we are going to discuss a social advance, someone appears to say that it is an expense," the president complained at the ceremony, whose Ministry of Finance is finalizing the proposal to control public spending that he will present to Congress with the intention of to replace the criticized and repeatedly violated spending ceiling
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