Brazil Thanks Cuban Doctors' Solidarity with Its People

The President of the Workers Party (PT) of Brazil, Gleisi Hoffman, thanked the government and Cuban doctors for their solidarity with her people, who today regret the withdrawal of their professionals from the More Doctors Program.

In statements to alternative media and radio stations in the southern state of Parana, Hoffman explained details of the contract signed between the Pan American Health Organization, Brazil and Cuba that brought out the initiative, created in August 2013 during the then President Dilma Rousseff's Government.

She described as disrespectful and unacceptable the position of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who issued offensive statements about the Cuban professionals who served in the most remote and humble regions of Brazil.

She called as a mockery Bolsonaro's attempt to ask for a qualification test for the Cuban doctors and argued that "Cuba sends doctors to 66 countries."

Do you know which is the only country that is demanding a competency test? Brazil; and you even commit the nonsense of saying that they are not doctors, the PT leader said.

She said that 'Cuban medicine is one of the most qualified in the world and even many US citizens go to Cuba for treatment. That is important for the elected government to know.'

Also, that future administration should know, she continued, that "the doctors who came to work in Brazil were evaluated, evaluated in the fluency of Portuguese and in the subjects of medicine by professors of our federal universities ... All these doctors underwent an evaluation."

In the five years of work of the More Doctors Program, nearly 20,000 Cuban collaborators served 113 million people in more than 3,600 municipalities in Brazil.

Cuba announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from the project because of the derogatory statements and inadmissible conditions that Bolsonaro intended to impose on the Cubans professionals once he assumes power on January 1.

I want to thank all the Cuban doctors who were here, their people who pay for the training with their work, their government for the 'solidarity and affection with which they treated our people, Hoffman said.

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Heightened in Brazil preference to attention of Cuban doctors

The clear preference to the attention of the Cuban doctors who give services in the Unique System of Health (SUS, for its acronym in Spanish) is emphasized here by the periodic Popular Brazil in its edition number 56.

It is this what verified diverse surveys made by academic and scientific entities, like the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Foundation Oswaldo Cruz, it pointed out the publication and remembered the beginnings, in 2013, of the program More Doctor thrown by the president of that time DilmaRousseff.

The Cuban physicians - it recalled - were harassed, disrespected; they slandered by the Brazilian medical entities, with the support of the big average, insensitive ones to the need for most of the people to be provided with professionals of the health arranged to a competent, humanist and united work.

“Quickly, thanks to the competition, the ethics and the professional dedication, the Cuban doctors - principally the women - happened of damned to preferred by the users of SUS”,  exalted Popular Brazil.

The Cuban doctors, who should have faced the racism and the machismo with which they were got for Brazilian entities, are decorated now by the absolute, spontaneous and sincere preference of their patients, who are afraid that the blow that knocked down Rousseff affects to a program which approval index overcomes 90 %, it annotated.

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Why African-American Doctors Are Choosing to Study Medicine in Cuba

In the countryside of western Havana, during the fall, rickety yellow buses carry first-year medical students from the Latin American School of Medicine. Wearing short-sleeved white smocks and stethoscopes, they go door to door, doing rounds, often speaking to their patients in broken Spanish. “Even people whose houses I wasn’t visiting sometimes would ask me to take their blood pressure, because they just saw me in the street,” Nimeka Phillip, an American who graduated from the school in 2015, told me.

The Latin American School of Medicine, or E.L.A.M., was established by the Cuban government, in 1999, after a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Mitch, left vulnerable populations in Central America and the Caribbean in dire need of health care. This year, in the aftermath of hurricane season, hundreds of Cuban health workers, many of them E.L.A.M. graduates, will travel to some of the hardest-hit areas of the Atlantic to treat the injured and sick. All of the students who attend E.L.A.M. are international. Many come from Asia, Africa, and the United States. The school’s mission is to recruit students from low-income and marginalized communities, where they are encouraged to return, after they graduate, to practice medicine.

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In the U.S., black and Latino students represent approximately six per cent of medical-school graduates each year. By contrast, nearly half of E.L.A.M.’s American graduates are black, and a third are Latino. “You would never see those numbers” in the U.S., Melissa Barber, another American E.L.A.M. graduate, told me.

Barber is a program coördinator at the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, in Harlem, which recruits American students for E.L.A.M. Applicants with college-level science backgrounds and the requisite G.P.A. go through an interview process with the organization. Those who make the cut are then recommended to E.L.A.M. The school accepted its first American applicants in 2001, a year after a delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus, whose leadership included Representatives Bennie Thompson and Barbara Lee, travelled to Cuba and held talks with the Ministry of Education about the need for doctors in rural black communities, and the financial obstacles that make it difficult for low-income and minority students to enroll in American medical schools. While some nations pay for their students to attend E.L.A.M., Fidel Castro decided that Americans, like Haitians and students from poor African countries, should attend for free.

Since 1987, no more than six per cent of medical students in the U.S. each year have come from families with poverty-level incomes. Meanwhile, the cost of medical school has skyrocketed; the median student debt for the class of 2016 was a hundred and ninety thousand dollars. Phillip, a first-generation college graduate, worked multiple jobs and took out loans to pay for her undergraduate degrees in public health and integrative biology, at the University of California, Berkeley. She hoped to study “stress- and poverty-related illness” in medical school, she told me, but the cost of tuition, along with the pressure that would come from being one of the few minority students in her class, discouraged her from applying.

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After she graduated, she came across an online listing for an I.F.C.O. event in San Jose, while researching alternatives to medical school. At the event, there were a number of E.L.A.M. graduates who offered testimonials, but she remembered being moved by Luther Castillo’s story in particular. After graduating from E.L.A.M., Castillo returned to his Afro-indigenous village, in Honduras, and built the area’s first free, community-run hospital. Phillip was impressed by his story, and by E.L.A.M.’s philosophy of offering a free education for students who pledged to practice medicine in low-income, medically underserved areas. After she applied and was accepted, she braced herself for her six-year odyssey in Cuba.

The child-mortality rate in Cuba is lower than it is in the U.S., and life expectancy in both countries is about the same, even though per-capita health-care spending in the United States is the highest in the world. In a certain way, Cuba has America to thank for this. The U.S.-imposed embargo and the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to an increase in the cost of medical supplies; facing a crisis, the Cuban government turned its attention to preventative care, seeking to eliminate much of the need for surgeries and expensive procedures by early detection.

The vast majority of Cuba’s medical students go into primary care. Many of them take up posts in consultorios—doctor-and-nurse teams that live in the neighborhoods in which they practice. In the United States, more and more graduates are choosing specialties—cardiology, radiology, urology—over primary care, which pays less. Besides driving up the cost of medical education, this has also exacerbated physician shortages in rural parts of the country. Today, sixty-four million Americans live in areas where there is only one primary-care physician for every three thousand people. By 2030, according to a study commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will be short at least forty thousand doctors, and perhaps as many as a hundred thousand.

Medicare and Medicaid programs support residency trainings, and the National Health Service Corps awards grants and loans to medical students in exchange for service in needier regions. But, in 2016, only two hundred and thirteen students received an N.H.S.C. scholarship. According to Congresswoman Karen Bass, of California, a supporter of E.L.A.M., funding is the main problem—particularly under the current Presidential Administration. Trump’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year will cut funding for graduate medical education by forty-eight billion dollars. It is “embarrassing,” Bass said, that “Cuba educates our students for free.”

E.L.A.M. offered Phillip a chance to pursue medicine without incurring catastrophic debt. As she put it, she would graduate with the equivalent of car payments, while her peers in the United States would be saddled with the equivalent of mortgages. Although the school was lacking in creature comforts—the students slept in bunk beds; the hot water and electricity were unreliable; there was little access to the Internet or the phone—Phillip powered through. With help from family, friends, and an organization called Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba—which helps American students in Cuba prepare for their homecoming with scholarships, tutoring for U.S. exams, and connections to American medical networks—she returned home each summer, gaining experience at hospitals in Minneapolis, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.

In March of 2014, Phillip passed the U.S. medical-licensing exam, with one year of Cuban medical school left. In 2016, she was accepted to a residency program in family medicine at a hospital in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “It’s one thing to recruit people that have high skills,” Bryan Hodge, the director of the Hendersonville program, told me. “More unique is when you find people that really have the passion and heart for taking care of underserved patient populations. These are the people needed to close the health-disparities gap.” As Peter McConarty, a veteran family doctor who advises E.L.A.M. students, put it, “A medical student in Cuba would have to actively resist the idea that they were agents of public health and social justice. In the United States, you have to actively seek it out.”

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Health ministry, Governors sign MoU on Cuban doctors

The Health ministry has signed an MoU with the Council of Governors on the hiring of Cuban doctors.

At the ceremony on Monday, Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki noted that specialised services are important for Kenyans.

"We are ready to support this initiative by Governors," she said after signing the agreement alongside CoG vice chair Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga).

Waiguru said the process that surrounded the deal was "very consultative and inclusive" and that counties will receive the specialists they need most.

"The journey towards universal healthcare is a long term undertaking that requires regular consultation and coordination between the two levels of government and all actors," she noted.

The national government and counties will share the costs of having the 100 Cuban doctors who will arrive later this month.

A memorandum signed by Kenya and Cuba shows each county will get at least two.

The doctors will work hand-in-hand with their Kenyan counterparts to roll out a range of medical services that are expected to radically change how a large number of life-threatening diseases are managed.

Universal healthcare is one of four pillars that President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised in his second term. The others are food security, manufacturing and affordable housing.

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Kenya: First Batch of Cuban Doctors to Arrive July

The first batch of Cuban doctors is expected in the country in July to help tackle the malaria pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday, brushing aside rising opposition from local medics.

Waqo Ejersa, the Head National Malaria Control Programme at the Ministry of Health (MoH), said Kenya is expecting 10 vector control experts and an additional 100 doctors from the communist state, following agreements signed during President Uhuru Kenyatta's recent visit to the island nation.

Dr Ejersa said the Cuban experts will oversee the spraying of stagnant water bodies in eight counties around Lake Victoria where malaria prevalence is high.

The preventive method, scientifically known as larviciding, involves killing of mosquitoe larvae.

"The spraying to be carried out by the special team from Cuba will involve application of bio larvicides to the breeding sites. The biological products used will interfere with growth of mosquitoes from the larvae stage. The first phase of the programme will last two years and we have reserved Sh500 million for the project," said Dr Ejersa during a malaria briefing in Nairobi.

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Mexican Doctors Rally Against Privatization, Oaxaca Repression

Hundreds of thousands of doctors are also joining the national strike called by the CNTE teachers union.

Hundreds of thousands of Mexican doctors went on strike in over 70 cities on Wednesday to protest neoliberal health reform and to support the heavily-repressed mobilizations of teachers and their supporters against education reform in Mexico’s southern, largely Indigenous states.

ANALYSIS: Neoliberal Teaching Reform Irrelevant to Mexico Needs

Strikers wore red and black ribbons to represent the violence they face as the consequence of crimes like kidnappings, enforced disappearances and killings that have gone unpunished by authorities. Doctors also criticized the lack of infrastructure in hospitals needed for access to healthcare.

Social media was flooded with accusations of deaths due to unattended hospitals and of sexual abuse by doctors, but activists warned of fake accounts and Twitter bots.

They also expressed solidarity with the teachers of the CNTE union, whose protests on Sunday were faced with severe police repression and ended in up to 12 dead. The doctors are joining the ongoing national general strike by teachers, including in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where the teachers’ protests have been especially strong. Both are denouncing impunity and the refusal of the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has been leading the reforms, to meet with the strikers without preconditions.

The group #YoSoyMedico17, which is comprised of doctors, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, has been joined by more than 200,000 physicians from 32 states in opposing the so-called Universal Health System reform by Peña Nieto. The medical professionals say the measure is a "disguised way of privatizing health in Mexico," and said doctors were not consulted on the reform, according to Animal Politico.

President Peña Nieto has introduced a number of radical measures, including 11 neoliberal structural reforms in education, health and the energy sector, during his first 20 months.

Tens of thousands of teachers have been protesting since May, demanding a meeting with Peña Nieto and his ministers to discuss the education reform. However Peña Nieto and his education minister, Aurelio Nuño, have refused to talk with the union leaders.

This Tuesday, the government announced that Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong would meet with union representatives.

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200,000 Doctors to Join Teachers in Mexico National Strike

Doctors' leaders have condemned the killing of at least eight people during a teacher’s protest last Sunday in the state of Oaxaca.

As protests led by the militant CNTE teachers' union in Mexico continue, the country's doctors are set to join in the job action, calling for a national strike on June 22 to protest a neoliberal reform to the health system imposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

ANALYSIS: Neoliberal Teaching Reform Irrelevant to Mexico Needs

The group #YoSoyMedico17, which is comprised of doctors, pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, has been joined by more than 200,000 physicians from 32 states in opposing the so-called Universal Health System reform by Peña Nieto. The medical professionals say the measure is a "disguised way of privatizing health in Mexico," and said doctors were not consulted on the reform, according to Animal Politico.

The doctors' protest will join the ongoing national general strike by teachers.

Doctor’s also condemned the killing of at least eight people during a teachers' protest last Sunday in the state of Oaxaca, and denounced what they call intimidation and repression by authorities, as well as organized crime.

According to doctors, as violence has increased in Mexico they have suffered the consequences of crimes like kidnappings, enforced disappearances and killings that have gone unpunished by authorities.

RELATED: Death Toll Rises in Oaxaca As Govt Represses Teacher Protests

President Peña Nieto has introduced a number of radical measures, including 11 neoliberal structural reforms in education, health and the energy sector, during his first 20 months.

Tens of thousands of teachers have been protesting since May, demanding a meetings with Peña Nieto and his ministers to discuss the education reform. However Peña Nito and his education minister, Aurelio Nuño, have refused to talk with the union leaders.

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