Two-thousand-five-hundred cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and general doctors arrived in the South American country Friday to bulk up the medical staff at the Barrio Adentro Mission, a social initiative founded by ex-president Hugo Chavez to provide free, public medical care.
In November, thousands of doctors were forced to leave the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) cooperation program in Brazil after far-right president Bolsonaro criticized the program, saying it was torture for Cuban mothers who were "not allowed" to go with their children and questioning diplomatic ties with the island.
In the last five years, about 20,000 Cuban physicians have participated in the ‘More Doctors Program,’ assisting thousands of Brazilians in rural communities to receive primary health care.
Some 1,462 vacancies, roughly 17.2 percent of those positions left by the Cuban doctors, have not yet been filled, the Brazilian Health Minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, said Friday.
In the city of Ponta Grossa in the state of Parana, 60 out of the 80 doctors were Cubans from the Mais Medicos program. According to Marcelo Rangel, the city's mayor, around 240,000 people will be affected by the ousting of these professionals. In Ponta Grossa, Jair Bolsonaro got 74 percent of the votes, and as an almost direct consequence, the city will lose almost 75 percent of its doctors.
Several states and municipalities inside Brazil pressured the National Government to provide a solution because the Cuban doctors are usually the only medical option in several rural areas of the country.
The health crisis that will hit Brazil will be deepened by austerity policies announced on several occasions by President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has attacked regulations from states and believes in extreme market freedom.