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    There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba

    “There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba” / 14ymedio,
    Reinaldo Escobar, Jeovany Jimenez Vega
    Posted on September 8, 2015

    14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Mexico, 7 September 2015 — Late last year,
    Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega decided to go to work in Ecuador on a private
    contract. From Guayaquil, where he works with his wife, he has read in
    the official Cuban press the new relaxations that allow healthcare
    workers who have emigrated to return to the Public Health System in Cuba.

    The doctor, author of the blog Citizen Zero, was separated from his
    profession in 2006 in retaliation for a protest over low wages in the
    health care sector. He subsequently staged a hunger strike as a result
    of which he managed to be restored to his previous job at the hospital
    in Guanajay. This time, he responded by email to several questions for
    readers of 14ymedio on the new measures, and the expectations and doubts
    they generate.

    Reinaldo Escobar. To what do you attribute the adoption of these
    relaxations relating to Cuban doctors living abroad?

    Dr. Jeovany Jimenez. It is obvious that this is a reaction to counter
    the massive exodus of professionals. The Cuban authorities had plenty of
    time, decades in fact, to do everything that they are promising today.
    But it is only now, when a stampede is underway, that they decide to
    implement a much fairer policy. The healthcare workers who generate
    between eight billion and ten billion dollars annually with our work
    abroad, we deserve this.

    So far, healthcare workers had only received sticks, despotic treatment
    and the capitalist exploitation of their work – in the strictest sense
    of the phrase – when we see that on an official mission of work abroad
    the healthcare worker receives only 20% of the salary that is agreed to
    between the two countries. Not a single word has been said about this
    situation and this is at the center of the desertions.

    Escobar. Do you think that many of these doctors living abroad are
    planning to return to the Island?

    Jimenez. Those doctors who deserted from missions or who left to work on
    individual contracts are not demanding to return to Cuba. They made
    their firm decision after giving it a lot of thought. What is the most
    evident reality for millions of Cubans is the profound, lamentable and
    systematic deterioration of medical care at all levels throughout the
    country. We have been witnesses for decades to the progressive
    structural deterioration of doctors’ offices, polyclinics, dental
    clinics and hospitals. Meanwhile the Cuban government continues to
    divert resources to polish its repressive apparatus and our
    neo-bourgeoisie spend big on luxury hotels and wandering around Turkey*.

    Escobar. So you did not see it as an opening?

    Jimenez. I greatly doubt that we are facing a genuine change towards
    more opening from the regime. We are facing a government that in the
    rest of its actions has changed nothing; it is still conducting its
    internal dynamics as an authentic dictatorship. It still systematically
    represses, with the greatest impunity, dissent in ideas and other basic
    human rights. It has not shown the slightest sign, in the rest of its
    facets, that would give us reason to believe that these measures can
    engage a change of mentality leading to real openings.

    We are simply looking at a pragmatic shift to adapt itself to the new
    circumstances.

    Escobar. What has been the reaction among physicians you know?

    Jimenez. Oscillating between joy, disdain and skepticism.

    Escobar. Is it possible to reverse the exodus of health professionals
    with these relaxations?

    Jimenez. The damage is done. Everything that happens today could largely
    have been avoided if the Ministry of Public Health and the Cuban
    government had listened seriously to the demands of our workers. They
    should have been attentive to our needs and followed a fair and
    reciprocal policy towards a sector that over the past three decades has
    generated more than 50% of Cuba’s GDP, without this having resulted in
    improvements to the status of our personal lives.

    Every Cuban doctor who decided to leave the island to work abroad, did
    it as a result of negative personal experiences and in search of
    different, more promising horizons. In most cases they left behind on
    the island extremely poor working conditions: an absurd monthly salary
    that runs out in a week, disrespect, the frequent arrogance and even the
    despotism of the authorities of their ministry and their government.
    That professional experienced a high degree of frustration at having
    devoted the best part of his or her life to a labor without being justly
    rewarded.

    That physician felt defrauded, if not betrayed. So these frustrations
    and mistreatments are evoked when weighing a decision to return to Cuba.

    Escobar. Will there be a wave of physicians returning to Cuban hospitals?

    Jimenez. It is very doubtful that a massive return will happen, but it
    is not entirely ruled out that some will choose to return after working
    for a time abroad, especially if the authorities, this time, keep their
    word and implement what they have promised. We know that with the Cuban
    Government there will always be some distance between words and actions.

    I doubt very much that this return will happen in the form of a wave,
    not immediately. There is too much mistrust generated by decades of
    broken promises to make it likely that now, by grace of an article in
    the newspaper Granma, someone will make ??the most important decision of
    his or her life, and return without further ado.

    Escobar. Do you think that this could open a gap so that more doctors
    leave Cuba once the punishments have been removed?

    Jimenez. The time when punishments were feared is in the past. Perhaps
    some, right now, perceive the long-expected starting gun, although there
    are still many professionals who never left the country because they
    didn’t find a way to finance the enterprise. Those of us who have chosen
    to work outside Cuba, we did it with loans from family or friends, or
    with the money accumulated on some official medical mission abroad.

    Escobar. Besides the resources to travel, what other obstacles are there
    on the road?

    Jimenez. In recent months they have implemented the practice,
    undoubtedly deliberately, of delaying all the legal validation of
    documents in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the rest of the
    ministries, with the obvious purpose of putting obstacles before any
    possible departure from the country by doctors and professionals from
    other sectors. This hindrance can only be explained as a policy of
    deterrent to discourage future flights.

    Escobar. In the announcement that appeared in Granma the only ones
    included among those who can return are those who left under the new
    Immigration Act, which came into force in January 2013, but there is
    nothing said about those who left before. What do you think about that?

    Jimenez. If this is so, we would be facing the perpetuation a grave
    injustice. To prevent any Cuban citizen from freely entering his or her
    own country is a grave violation of human rights practiced by the Cuban
    government for half a century. Anyone who still doubts that this is a
    rancid dictatorship can take this example: a doctor precluded by a group
    of officials from meeting with his children for eight years (!) for
    something as simple as having terminated a labor contract, for nothing
    more than his having “deserted” a mission.

    Such a decision would oppose the central objective of the new policy,
    that seeks nothing more than discouraging departures and encouraging the
    return of a greater number of professionals among those who once left.

    *Translator’s note: A reference to recent photographs published in the
    international press showing Fidel Castro’s son Antonoio Castro Soto Del
    Valle enjoying a luxury vacation in Turkey.

    Source: “There Will Not Be A Wave Of Physicians Returning To Cuba” /
    14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Jeovany Jimenez Vega | Translating Cuba –
    http://translatingcuba.com/there-will-not-be-a-wave-of-physicians/

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