Cuban doctors to arrive in Ecuador in December
CUBA STANDARD — The first of 1,000 Cuban mostly primary-care physicians
will begin arriving in Ecuador in December, under agreements signed by
the health ministries of Cuba and Ecuador last week in Havana.
The first 200 family doctors should arrive in late January, according to
one of the agreements signed by Ecuadorean Health Minister Carina Vance
and her Cuban peer, Roberto Morales Ojeda. The agreements also cover
epidemiologists and physical therapists.
The Cuban help allows implementation of a more cost-efficient
primary-care model in the country that focuses on prevention, the
Ecuadorean health ministry argues in a press release.
“This leads directly to a reduction in the use of services that require
hospitalization or curative treatment due to gravity and complications,
as well as health rehabilitation services,” a communique by the
Ecuadorean health ministry says.
President Rafael Correa announced in September that his government would
spend $30 million per year on the program.
“This is a model we have to implement in Ecuador,” Correa said at the
time about Cuba’s primary care physicians, the backbone of the island’s
cost-efficient medical system. He added that the Cuban doctors will be a
stopgap measure while more Ecuadorean primary-care physicians are being
trained in Cuba.
Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) has graduated 1,400
Ecuadorean students, for which Ecuador has paid $218 million, according
to that country’s health ministry. Cuba has committed to training 10,000
Ecuadorean primary-care community physicians and technicians.
The Cuban doctors will work in underserved poor neighborhoods and rural
areas, practicing primary-care, family and preventive medicine.
The backbone of Cuba’s for-pay medical service exports has been
Venezuela, covering some 30,000 Cuban healthcare practitioners. The
Ecuadorean agreements further broaden Cuban efforts to diversify for-pay
exports. Marking a major breakthrough, Brazil is contracting 5,400 Cuban
doctors, generating estimated revenues of $250 million per year for
Cuba. Cuba is also expanding more modest medical service programs in
South Africa, Angola and Algeria, and it started programs in Saudi
Arabia, Qatar, and Portugal. Finally, Norway and Brazil have funded
medical relief efforts involving Cuban doctors in Haiti.
While service exports — most of them medical services — a decade ago
surpassed tourism as Cuba’s main source of hard currency, by far most of
the healthcare exports are under agreements with oil-rich Venezuela. An
estimated 30,000 medical personnel from Cuba work in Venezuela, or in
third countries under programs funded by Venezuela.
Next to healthcare service exports, the biggest gain for the Cuban
economy of closer medical cooperation with Ecuador could be
In 2011, Correa pledged his country would buy up to $1.5 billion worth
of Cuban-made medical drugs and vaccines that year. The pledge came
after the Ecuadorean health minister toured Laboratorios Novatec and
Laboratorios Farmacéuticos AICA in Havana, which produce generic
versions of Aspirin and Tamiflu, as well as medical supplies such as
vials and aerosols. However, arguing that Cuban products were not
registered in their country, Ecuadorean critics were apparently able to
significantly reduce these purchases; at the time, Correa publicly
complained about “sabotage” in his own health ministry.
Source: “Cuban doctors to arrive in Ecuador in December « Cuba Standard,
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