Jair Bolsonaro’s ideological prejudice, ignorance about public policy and the lack of social sensibility leave 60 million Brazilians without medical treatment, as Cuba calls back 11,000 doctors – the only ones currently working in public clinics in 700 Brazilian municipalities and hundreds of favelas.
By Brian Mier
5 years ago, Dilma Rousseff’s government made one of many significant improvements to the Brazilian public health system through a program in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization and Cuban Government called, “More Doctors”. Brazil did not have a shortage of doctors at the time. The problem was that, since it is a traditional elite profession dominated by white members of the upper middle class, most doctors preferred to live in the big cities and there was a major shortage of people willing to live in small towns or work in favelas. Due to this historic problem 700 Brazilian counties had no doctors at all in their public health posts, most of which were staffed by nurses or nurses aids.
After the More Doctors program was inaugurated, the Federal Government posted all of the job openings for doctors in remote areas, with a just salary of approximately R$13,000/month (around $6500 USD at the time). If the posts were not filled by Brazilians, they would invite Cuban doctors to fill them. Over the past 5 years, 20,000 Cuban doctors came to Brazil and provided treatment for 113 million patients. This program enabled to government to extend public health coverage to 60 million people. It also infuriated a lot of Brazilian doctors, who are a traditional bastion of Brazil’s white upper middle class. The fact that most Cuban doctors who came over were black infuriated a lot of people in this class, and racist incidents proliferated. When they first arrived, some black Cuban doctors were greeted at airports by crowds of white doctors chanting monkey noises and racists slurs. After these uncomfortable incidents subsided, surveys of patients showed that they preferred them over their Brazilian counterparts. Poor and working class patients praised them for listening, treating them as equals and using a holistic approach in treatment.
For the past year, Bolsonaro and his supporters have repeatedly insulted Cuba, Cubans and the Cuban government and has called on Brazilian leftists to “move to Cuba”. On November 11, the Cuban government announced it was pulling out of the program, due to Bolsonaro’s lack of respect.
Responding to the announcement, Dilma Rousseff called it “an external health policy decision made over twitter”.
In an official statement, the PT party said, “ideological prejudice, ignorance about public policy and the lack of social sensibility of Jair Bolsonaro will leave 60 million Brazilians without medical treatment.”