Monday, June 8, 2020

Cuban Physicians Abroad Face Lack of Pay During Pandemic

Having served as Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University, Dr. Jorge I. Domínguez also had a research emphasis on Cuban politics and society. Dr. Jorge I. Domínguez continues to maintain a strong interest in developments in the Communist island nation during a time of pandemic and increased economic hardship.

The export of medical support and knowledge is a key hard currency earner for Cuba, but a recent article in the Miami Herald brought attention to a claim by several Cuban physicians working in Algeria that they had not received pay since March. This came just after Algeria made public that it pays $70 million to Cuba each year for the services of nearly 900 doctors, which amounts to $79,000 annually for each physician procured.

Of this amount, physicians receive approximately $900 a month, with $350 directly deposited into their Cuban bank accounts and the rest disbursed to the Cuban government in Algerian dinars. According to one physician, Cuba states as a reason for this the need to make investments in education and health. Though the physicians endure crowded conditions and have restricted movements while abroad, they largely accept this arrangement for the sake of their families. Their own earnings in hard-currency exceed the payments they would have received while working in Cuba. Thus, such service can be financially beneficial for the health-care personnel serving abroad even if they only receive a small fraction of what Algeria pays Cuba for their services.

Algeria has had a medical services provision arrangement with Cuba since the 1960s, but Cuban physicians recently expressed surprise at learning how much was actually paid for their services. The current situation, with no payments coming from a Cuban government strapped for cash, means that in many cases the physicians are simply subsisting on the food the hospitals provide them.