Italy: faced with medical deserts, Calabria calls on Cuban caregivers

A first wave of fifty Cuban doctors arrived in Calabria, in southern Italy. The region has been facing a lack of caregivers, and in particular specialists, for many years. An emergency solution was adopted: to bring nearly 500 specialized doctors from Cuba for almost a year.

51 specialized doctors have arrived in Italy from Cuba to compensate for the lack of personnel in the country’s public hospitals. The reduction in public health spending over the years has slowed the recruitment of doctors in all regions of Italy, especially in those with great difficulties such as Calabria. The region has been considered a medical wasteland for 10 years.

The arrival of Cuban doctors brings temporary support to the region but, the president of Calabria assures him, it is not a long-term solution: “It is a necessary emergency solution, in order to avoid closing hospitals“he assures.

Nearly 500 Cuban doctors are expected in Calabria

Cuba regularly sends reinforcement doctors abroad through the company Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos Cubanos (CSMC). During the Covid-19 pandemic, they were present in more than 40 countries. Italy, in particular, had benefited from this assistance.

For Elizabeth Balbuena Delgado, cardiologist, it is in perfect coherence with the values ​​of medicine: ‘It’s a new experience, I’m going to discover a new culture and help people in need. This is the goal of our profession, to help those who need it most.”.

Soon, the first Cuban doctors will take up their duties in the various hospitals of Calabria. In the meantime, they are taking Italian courses to be able to communicate better with their specialist colleagues and with their patients.

In all, the region of Calabria awaits the arrival of nearly 500 doctors who will come from Cuba to work in Calabrian hospitals for at least a year. Most of them are forced to leave family and friends on the island. A situation accepted by the entourage of Dayli Ramos Reymont, radiologist: “My family knows the altruistic and humanistic journey of Cuban doctors and understands the desire of our people to help all countries in the medical field, whether developed or developing, whenever they need it.“.

A recourse to Cuban doctors that is controversial.

If the situation is very positive for Calabria, criticism has been raised about the remuneration of these doctors. A significant portion of their salary is captured by the Cuban state (through the CSMC), which organizes their expatriation.

The agreement between the Calabrian region and the CSMC provides that, for each doctor, €1,200 are paid directly to physicians”for maintenance, reimbursement of expenses“, while €3,500 are collected by the CSMC. As revealed by our colleagues from EURACTIVseveral MEPs, including the Italian Etoile LauraFerrara sent a letter in October 2022 to the president of the Calabria region asking him to give up what they are equivalent to “forms of slavery“.

The situation of Cuban medical personnel abroad had already been denounced by the European Parliament in its resolution of September 16, 2021 “on government crackdown targeting protests and citizens in Cuba“. Adopted, this resolution evokes a “systematic violation of the labor law and human rights” of Cuban caregivers, “which amounts to modern slavery according to the United Nations“.

Questions pushed back by the president of the Calabria region, Roberto Occhiuto, in view of the urgency: “A life saved in one of those hospitals that I would otherwise have to close is worth more than a thousand polemics, even if that life is saved by a very good Cuban doctor rather than an Italian doctor.“.

Italy: faced with medical deserts, Calabria calls on Cuban caregivers