Controversy in Mexico over the hiring of Cuban doctors: “In our country there are unemployed doctors or with very low salaries”

Health sector workers in front of the National Palace demanded contracts without irregularities and more sources of employment, on January 10, 2022.
Health sector workers in front of the National Palace demanded contracts without irregularities and more sources of employment, on January 10, 2022.Future Publishing (Getty Images)

The rapprochement of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador with the Cuban government is raising rough edges in the Mexican health sector. The president’s recent trip to Havana resulted in a cooperation agreement riddled with controversy: on the one hand, the purchase of the covid-19 vaccine developed by that country, whose quality is in question, and, on the other , the hiring of 500 doctors from the island due to the alleged lack of personnel in Mexico. The latter fell like a jug of cold water among Mexican doctors, who responded this week with a statement signed by twenty medical associations and colleges in which they expressed their “deep disapproval and energetic protest.”

“In our country there are doctors with capacity endorsed by the Universities of the Mexican Republic (…), some of them unemployed or eventually employed with very low salaries or in areas of extreme insecurity. Due to this, we consider that they have been unfairly relegated, privileging foreign doctors”, they said in their letter, signed among others by the infectologist Alejandro Macías, who was the czar of the AH1N1 influenza pandemic in Mexico more than ten years ago. .

The networks have become these days in the mailbox of complaints of those who have not obtained a contract in recent times. “I am a doctor hired by the pandemic,” says one of them, who started working at one of the centers of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) in Mexico City in April 2020. “I haven’t had a contract for two months, we are 200 doctors in the same situation only in this delegation. They don’t give us a settlement and they don’t give us a response for a new hire, ”he laments. Another explains that in the IMSS there is a long list of doctors waiting their turn to get a permanent job. “Better give them a base,” he asks.

The precariousness among health workers in the country is the breeding ground for discomfort over the hiring of Cuban doctors. At the beginning of the pandemic, protests by doctors and nurses were repeated due to the lack of materials, equipment and basic protection to face the situation. A case that illustrated the shortcomings faced by the country’s health workers was that of Jorge Alejandro López Rivas, a trainee doctor who died of covid-19 after being forced to work without safety equipment at the Ecatepec hospital, in the State of Mexico .

“All health professionals work and will work in the care of patients affected by covid-19, even risking our lives and that of our families, on many occasions even buying personal protective equipment ourselves. For this, it is a grievance for the Mexican medical union,” the statement emphasizes. The union thus responds to the president, who justified his decision to bring Cuban doctors in the lack of trained personnel in the country. “We have a shortage of specialists, we can have hospitals, but we don’t have pediatricians, and even more so when it comes to going to work in hospitals in poor areas,” he assured.

It is not the first time that the López Obrador government has been involved in the controversy over hiring Cuban doctors. In June 2020, the disbursement of six million dollars to bring 585 health professionals from the island also unleashed the fury of Mexican medical personnel, who were facing one of the toughest moments of the pandemic at the time. On this occasion, for the moment, the amount that will be allocated to the contract has not been disclosed. However, just like then, the controversy has once again been stained with xenophobic overtones, with publications questioning the capabilities of the island’s doctors or accusing them of being “political agents.”

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