Monday, December 6, 2010

Cuba to overhaul health care, export more doctors

Cuba to overhaul health care, export more doctors
Posted December 06, 2010 07:35:00
Agence France-Presse

HAVANA—Cuba will overhaul its vaunted health care system, with many more
workers reassigned or sent abroad on contracts to earn hard currency to
reduce health costs at home, an official statement said Sunday.

The announcement marks a significant change of direction for a country
that has a proportionately large professional medical sector by
international standards for its population of 11 million.

A Health Ministry statement said many workers needed to be reassigned
nationally to higher-need areas.

But those for whom reassignment was not an option would be sent as
medical "cooperation" workers overseas to earn hard currency for
communist Cuba, according to the document, "Necessary Changes in the
Public Health System," obtained by AFP.

Medical services will be free for poor countries but will be sold to
countries able to afford them "with the goal of reducing our expenses
and contributing to the National Health System," the document said.

Cuba, the Americas' only one-party communist regime, already has 38,000
medical "cooperation" workers working in 77 countries—most of them in
Venezuela, where their services generate more than six billion dollars a

That makes "exports" of medical services actually the top earner of hard
currency for Cuba's government, which then uses the money to run the
island nation's centralized economy. The number-two hard-currency earner
is tourism.

The reform is not without potential for controversy. Some doctors—who
make about 20 dollars a month in Cuba—would prefer to make better wages
at home but cannot. So they take jobs abroad to be able to send some
hard currency home to relatives living in Cuba.

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