Cuba’s biggest exports are doctors adjudged one of the best in the world. Here’s why

November 26, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Ama Nunoo

Ama Nunoo | Staff Writer

November 26, 2019 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Comité Central , Photo: Wikepedia

For a country that has had one of the most notorious revolutions in the world, every citizen has access to quality healthcare.

Cuba’s health care is a basic human right entrenched into the country’s constitution with nine doctors to a 1,000 citizens, according to Telesur.

The highest recorded in Cuba’s history and it’s all thanks to the country continually improving its health sector. Whereas many health practitioners and medical training institutions pay attention to finding the cure to many ailments, Cuban doctors are trained to focus on preventative medicine.

So, they can curb the illness even before it develops. They also train doctors to prevent further complications in an already existent illness. Universal healthcare and free education make healthcare facilities readily accessible to its citizens.

There have also been new development programs such as precision medicine, health informatization, robotic medicine and nanomedicine.

Fidel Castro heavily invested into the health sector and today the country has a higher life expectancy compared to the United States.  Life expectancy of women is 81 years and men are 77 years.

Mark Keller, a Cuba expert at the Economist Intelligence Unit said, “Cuba has a really well-educated population and a surfeit of doctors.”

It is no hidden knowledge that Cuban doctors are held in high regards internationally and in high demand in developing countries, especially in smaller African and Caribbean countries.

More recently, after Mozambique’s cyclone Idai which killed more than 400 people and injured many citizens, Cuba sent a “field hospital”, with full staff and apparatus to the country. The doctors stayed for 63 days and the Cuban delegation attended to a total of 22,259 patients, according to Telesur.

Sadly, doctors do not earn much in Cuba as their economy is struggling. However, doctors are a big export and huge earner for the country. “When you have a very well-educated population but also shortages of cash and goods, you want to find a way to monetize it,” said Keller.

Though most of the monies made abroad goes to the government the amount earned by the doctors on their missions is more than they could earn if they were working in their home country.

The Caribbean island makes around $11 billion each year leasing doctors to foreign countries than it makes through tourism. There are approximately 50,000 Cuban doctors working in 67 countries around the world, notably referred to as an “army of white coats” by Cuban officials.

Some say it’s a form of PR for the totalitarian regime to send its doctors on humanitarian missions to gain favours or let’s say votes from the countries in need when the time is right.

“For smaller African or Caribbean countries, who can’t necessarily afford to pay for the doctors, it gets them on Cuba’s side,” Keller noted. “They’ll be more lenient towards Cuba when they’re under international pressure from Europe and the United States [to oppose it].”

Jose Angel Portal Miranda, head of the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) said there were about 35,787 foreign students from 141 countries who graduated from Cuban universities, mainly from Africa and Latin America.

Of the 10,000 medical professionals who graduated from Havana, 1,535 of them are from foreign countries. No other small developing countries has achieved such a feat, Miranda added.

Cuba’s doctors are still very much sought-after the world over.  “Cuba’s doctors-for-export business isn’t going anywhere. This is a massive program,” Keller opined. “It’s one of the main things Cuba has to offer to the world.”

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