Cuban doctors to avoid the closure of hospitals in Calabria (Italy)

This content was published on January 09, 2023 – 11:22

Marta Rullan

Rome, Jan 9 (EFE).- A first contingent of 51 Cuban doctors has been in the Italian region of Calabria (south) for a few weeks to help solve its health crisis, since the lack of more than 2,400 health professionals threatens the closure of hospitals and emergency units.

“Health must be globalized,” the person in charge of the mission, Dr. Luis Enrique Pérez Ulloa, told EFE.

“This is a very good collaboration model that can be the starting point for many countries, mainly European, those that have damaged their health situation, with few human resources and many doctors of retirement age, with a lack of personnel in emergencies and other services,” he explains.

In addition to being an expert hematologist, Pérez Ulloa is a veteran of Cuban international cooperation: he began the mission in Venezuela in 2003, in addition to leading the team that traveled to Andorra during the pandemic.

Precisely, the work carried out by the two brigades specialized in epidemics that traveled to Italy in February 2020, when the north of the country became the world epicenter of the coronavirus, has been decisive for the president and health officer of Calabria, the conservative Riccardo Occhiuto, ask Cuba for help.

“The Italian authorities and the Italian population that I have met this year have appreciated the dedication, courage and dedication of those professionals. They overcame their own fears of a new disease that at that time had no cure, they were real heroes,” the woman told EFE. Cuban ambassador in Italy, Mirta Granda Averhoff.

In any case, “Calabria’s initiative is independent of that and novel: it responds to an emergency to attend medical services of the regional health system impacted by the lack of personnel.”

The agreement with Calabria “is an important cooperation project signed between the presidency of the region and the company of Cuban Medical Services (SMC)” that will bring a total of 497 specialists to Italy over the course of a year at the “initiative of the president Roberto Occhiuto, who found the solution to the health emergency in Cuban doctors,” added the ambassador.

In addition to being head of the Cuban mission in Italy, Pérez Ulloa is also president in Italy of SMC, the company that sells the island’s health services abroad.

“It is a great responsibility because I represent my country,” explains the doctor, who assures that the 51 doctors from the brigade who have arrived in Italy are “full of enthusiasm.”

“It is a very well-formed unit, with 38 men and 13 women, and an age measurement of 40 years. Many have already participated in international missions in other countries. This project is going to be a success,” he predicts.

The ambassador, for her part, recalls the vast Cuban experience in international medical missions, dating back to the 1960s: “The cooperation began on May 23, 1963 when the first brigade of 55 health workers arrived in Algeria, who offered their services in that nation for a year”, although already in 1960, after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, a group traveled to Chile to help after a strong earthquake.

“Since that moment, our doctors have provided services in 165 countries with more than 600,000 collaborators,” he affirms, while today there are 23,792 Cuban health professionals present in 56 countries, with more than 2,000 million patients in these 59 years of international collaboration.

The doctors who have arrived in Italy and are learning the language before starting to work with patients in the coming weeks are volunteers from almost the entire island, from Guantanamo to Camagüey, passing through Santo Espíritu, Pinar del Rio, Santiago, Matanzas and Holguin, among other provinces.

“There is an evaluation in Cuba and another here, to see the needs of each specialty and decide accordingly,” explains the head of mission, who, when asked about what Cuba obtains with this agreement, limits himself to pointing out that it is about ” a contract between the company and the government”, without going into details.

And, as the brigade’s medical officer, he refutes some of the harsh criticism received by Occhiuto: “The Cuban doctor does not come to impose anything or take away anyone’s job, he comes to work with the Italian personnel.”

The president of Calabria, of Forza Italia, is clear about it: “They tried to stop us, with controversy and bureaucratic obstacles, but we succeeded. As I have already said on several occasions, they will not steal any jobs from Italian doctors, but they will help us to keep the wards and hospitals open”.

“We continue to search tirelessly for Italian doctors through competitions, but now the danger was having to close health centers due to lack of personnel. It is our duty to face the emergency with all the tools at our disposal, to guarantee care and services to the citizens of Calabria. They will not stop us,” he wrote on Facebook the day the Cuban brigade arrived. EFE



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Cuban doctors to avoid the closure of hospitals in Calabria (Italy)