WMA Condemns Way of Importing Physicians by Brazil Government

(06.09.2013) Serious concerns have been raised by the World Medical Association about a new program called “Mais Medicos“ (More Physicians) that is currently being rolled out in Brazil. 

It says the Brazilian Government is hiring thousands of Cuban health workers, labelled as so called ‘physicians', to provide medical services in underserved areas of the country. The Government claims that it is filling places where no Brazilian physician would go. First reports however indicate that Brazilian physicians are now being laid off to be replaced by cheaper Cuban health workers. 

But the WMA believes that the situation is worse than this. Despite the requirement of current Brazilian law, the ‘Mais Medicos' physicians do not have to demonstrate their competency as physicians or their proficiency in the Portuguese language. In addition they are not receiving a salary but merely get pocket money contrary to Brazilian labour rights and laws. In the case of Cuban health workers the Brazilian Government is paying the Cuban government for their services, and a small part of the amount will be paid by the Cuban Government to their health workers. In the international press this is already being quoted as ‘modern slavery'.

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the World Medical Association Council, said: ‘The procedures being used here are detrimental to the health of Brazilians. They raise the concern that this is more about squeezing out Brazilian physicians and repressing independent patient advocates. It is clearly not to help the underserved with new and quality services. To help the disadvantaged, the Government should have increased its investment in the health system, which is low compared to other countries with universal public health systems, improving the health structure and supporting Brazilian physicians to go those areas and people instead of employing health workers whose competencies remain questionable.'

He said that to regain trust the Brazilian Government should at least have all immigrating physicians undergo the legally required process
of assessing their competency of medicine and language skills and involve the established processes and professions to ensure a credible
system that Brazilians can trust. 

‘The Brazilian Government needs to look for a meaningful discussion with the Brazilian Medical Association if it really wants to improve health care conditions in the country and not adopt a programme that would create two medical systems in Brazil, one for those who can pay and a less qualified one for the poorest population'.

He said the WMA would discuss this issue at its Council Meeting and General Assembly next month.