Cuba Forecasts $8.2 Billion From Doctors Abroad This Year

Cuba’s government forecasts it will receive $8.2 billion from sending doctors and nurses abroad this year as it announced plans to raise salaries for medical personnel on the Caribbean island.

The revenue from workers abroad, paid by the countries hosting them, accounts for about 64 percent of Cuba’s service industry, according to a report today in state-controlled newspaper Granma. The communist country’s gross domestic product was about $68 billion in 2011, according to World Bank.

The salary increases will affect about 440,000 health-care workers. Wages for general physicians will more than double to about $44 a month, while surgeons and specialists are set to receive the biggest raises, the story said. Health workers sent to Venezuela will have their salaries doubled.

Cuba has sent health-care workers to countries ranging from Venezuela to Brazil to generate cash and spread what it regards as the social achievements of the Castro brothers’ 1959 revolution. The biggest contingent, some 30,000, are currently deployed in Venezuela as part of an oil-for-doctors agreement hatched by the late President Hugo Chavez, while about 7,400 Cuban doctors and nurses are under contract to work in Brazil.

A Cuban doctor working in Brazil last month took refuge in the offices of an opposition party member in Brasilia, saying her government was taking an unfair share of her pay.

She was contracted under the Brazilian government’s More Doctors program, which pays foreign physicians 10,000 reais ($4,300) a month to work in under-served areas of the country. The doctor received $400 per month in Brazil and $600 per month in a Cuban account from her government, according to a copy of her contract with a Havana-based company representing the Cuban Health Ministry.

The salary increase in Cuba was made possible by a reduction of about 109,000 health-care workers from 2010-2013, Granma said, part of a plan by President Raul Castro to reduce government spending by reducing public sector jobs. Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel in 2008, has loosened property laws and tried to foster the creation of cooperatives and some private businesses such as taxis and mobile-phone companies to bolster growth.