By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Brazilian government’s Programa Mais Médicos (More Doctors Program) is completing two years this semester and despite the early criticism it received, the Rousseff Administration says the program is a huge success. According to data from the Ministry of Health, during these two years, 18,240 physicians have been hired to work in more than four thousand municipalities throughout Brazil.
The program is present in over 73 percent of all Brazilian municipalities and in 34 indigenous communities. Government data shows that during these two years more than 63 million Brazilians were assisted through the program.
“We are investing in primary care and the Mais Médico program is changing Brazil’s health reality,” said Health Minister Arthur Chioro at a conference last week in the Northeastern state of Piaui.
The controversy surrounding the program started due to the fact that more than half of those hired were Cuban doctors ‘imported’ through a cooperation agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Of the more than 18,000 doctors hired for the program 11,429 were Cubans, 5,274 Brazilians and the remaining 1,537 of other nationalities.
During the first few months there were media reports of Cuban doctors leaving their posts and asking for political asylum in Brazil, program doctors complaining of not receiving wages, and patients still waiting hours to see a physician.
The government’s objective in creating the program was to provide medical assistance to those living on the outskirts of Brazil’s large metropolitan areas, to communities of former African-Brazilian slaves (Quilombos), to the indigenous population, the landless peasants and those living in the Northeastern outback. These populations had to travel sometimes days for medical help.
In an interview this week to O Globo, Minister Chioro said that the program also calls for investments in education of new professionals and medical residencies for Brazilians graduating from medical school. According to Chioro the government expects that by 2026 the country will no longer have to rely on foreign doctors to fill primary health posts throughout the country.