Friday, December 21, 2018

Brazil and Cuban Doctors

For years, the Cuban government has sent doctors abroad in order to generate revenue, sometimes in exchange for oil. Jair Bolsonaro ended the practice, saying the Cubans were slave labor. This is not inaccurate. But I had not appreciated the scope.

While Brazil said last month it had filled more than 90% of the vacancies, 2,439 out of 8,411 new recruits had failed to report to their work locations by a Tuesday deadline, a health ministry spokeswoman said. The positions will be opened up for new applications on 20 and 21 December, she said.
8,000 doctors! This is awful both for humanitarian and public policy reasons. The humanitarian is that so many Cuban doctors were forced to leave their homes and live in an unfamiliar country (though there is an obvious humanitarian positive for the work they are doing, irrespective of their own situation).

But the policy implications are immense. The Brazilian government chose to rely on thousands of Cuban doctors rather than investing in educating its own. There is a shortage because Cuba became a crutch, a way to cut corners and ignore reality. Then if you end it, you had better have a plan in motion to start filling those positions. It might take years.


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