Michael Moore’s favorite doctors are resisting those lucrative $15 per month wages and fleeing to the US.
Cuban doctors and graduating medical students sit underneath an image of late revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara during an event in Havana, Cuba. (Reuters)
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…The most damning indictment of the program comes from the participating doctors. While the Cuban government’s fellow travelers like to see these doctors as humanitarians going forth to spread the blessings of universal healthcare, many take part for a very different reason: they seek any available way out of Cuba. This April, for instance, the prominent UK medical journal, The Lancet, published an instructive article on the 14,000 Cuban doctors stationed in Venezuela. Hundreds of these doctors have used the opportunity of arriving in a new country to flee to neighboring Colombia, where they seek temporary asylum while waiting on a slim chance to immigrate to the United States. “I didn’t arrive in Venezuela to work; I arrived and deserted right away,” one typical Cuban doctor told the journal.
Stories such as these are all too common. In 2000, some commentators made much of the fact that Cuban doctors were sent to Zimbabwe to help relieve the crisis of the country’s disastrously-run hospitals. Few saw fit to mention the names Leonel Cordova and Noris Pena, two Cuban doctors who used the occasion to, as they put it, “fulfill lifelong dreams of leaving Cuba forever” by defecting.
Precise statistics on defectors are difficult to come by, but there can be little doubt that the numbers are high (500 by one estimate). In 2006 alone, some 63 Cubans, most of them doctors, sought refuge in the Colombian capital of Bogota; untold others sought asylum at the U.S. embassy. And while defecting entails many complications — doctors put their life in limbo with no guarantee of reuniting with family members or practicing medicine again — it is a choice that countless Cubans are demonstrably willing to make.
The doctors have a hard time making ends meet on $15 monthly wages on the Island Paradise:
Most of the doctors jumped at the chance to work overseas, seeing it as an opportunity to earn far more than the $15 a month they were paid in Cuba. But the workload was heavy — from early morning until night, sometimes seven days a week. And the pay — around $200 a month — quickly evaporated in a country with high prices and double-digit inflation.
Babalu has more on the myths of Cuban health care.