Cuba: Human Resources in the Health Sector

By Vivian Collazo*

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Havana (PL) The training of human resources is now a priority in the health sector as a way of responding to universal coverage of this system and the international commitments of medical cooperation of Cuba.

The rector of the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH), Jorge Gonzalez, said that this institution for teaching, the largest of the island, has the mission of educating and training Cuban and foreign students in various health specialties.

In a meeting with the press, Dr. Gonzalez said the UCMH enrollment has increased significantly. “We are among the colleges offering more careers for graduates of university level or for different routes of entering university,” he said.

He explained that for 2015-2016 year, starting in September, the institution is offering 700,000 places for medical studies, 250 for stomatology, 147 for degree in nursing, and 494 in seven specialties of health technology.

He stressed that at present nearly 5,000 residents in various medical specialties are being trained, a record since there had not been such a high number of residents at the University for many years, he said.

He said that there is an important response of specialists in accordance with the needs of the system, established not only by the requirements of the country, but also by the potential international demand for outsourcing and free joint action with other states.

He stated that the self-financing activity grows, nearly 3,000 students are paying today to study medicine in Cuba. The island has become an important place with demand of studies. More than 700 foreigners study various specialties, most of them from Mexico and Colombia, he said.

He considered that there is already a Cuban medical school, with books and own conditions, methodology, guidelines, and a training history, as nursing and dentistry have been taught since 1728.

Dr. Gonzalez also referred to the recent foundation of a preparatory faculty in Havana, aims to train non-English speaking foreigners, first in Spanish language and then in basic subjects, to begin university careers in September.

More than 2,000 young people from 11 nations, most of them African, are being trained there in language and basic sciences before the school year starts, he said. He stressed that in this context there is a rigorous international sanitary control of all travelers arriving from anywhere in the world.

This implies a period of quarantine to prevent the entry of sick people who might jeopardize the security of the country, in this case related to health, he added.

MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION

Marcia Cobas, deputy minister of public health, said 50,663 Cuban collaborators works in 67 countries, in various forms of collaboration, though mostly by solidarity.

“We are present in 32 countries under the comprehensive health program, in 14 with Miracle Operation, in three African countries with the Henry Reeve Brigade, in 17 countries with compensated technical assistance, and only in 16 with Cuban medical services,” he explained.

“Solidarity is still prevailing over agreements. We export services, not doctors, because our professionals have their jobs guaranteed in Cuba, in addition to their salary and social security protection.”

He said that there are prospects for expansion of existing agreements, although there are limitations on human resources and languages. On this point, he said that some actions are already established, such as strengthening the study of foreign languages (English, French, Portuguese) in undergraduate.

It is also expected to develop in the country what is known as Health Tourism, for which capabilities are expanded. The idea is to speed up this line of business in the next three years, allowing the competition with other nations, said Cobas.

The deputy minister said that the number of foreign students applying for places for a career in medicine and other specialties in the health sector grows each year, and also for short and summer courses.

* Head of the Science and Technology Editorial Department at Prensa Latina News Agency

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