President López Obrador defended his decision to hire Cuban doctors to work in marginalized areas of Mexico, saying the country has a shortage of general practicioners. Nevertheless, doctors and medical associations argue that there are plenty of doctors available, but they are competing for scarce jobs in the medical field. Furthermore, they say that the government does not possess reliable parameters to confirm this alleged shortage of doctors.
López Obrador highlighted that the deficit stands at 50,000 doctors, a problem that is exacerbated in rural areas of the country as Mexican medical professionals pursue to study and work in large cities. Sometimes, they even refuse to move to rural areas. Consequently, the president said that it is necessary to hire more doctors. He explained that he chose Cubans doctors because they had previously worked in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, López Obrador accused his opposition of continuing to promote a structure where only the wealthy can study medicine and access health care. “They do not like free health care because they believe it is a privilege,” he said.
López Obrador stressed that Cuban doctors will earn the same as Mexican doctors, so salary discrimination would not be an issue. Faced with the accusations of PAN Member Ricardo Anaya that "Mexico would finance the dictatorship in Cuba,” the president explained that the salaries would not follow the usual Cuban resource distribution system and that the money would go directly to the doctors.
Mexico’s medical organizations and practicioners stated that López Obrador's initiative discriminates Mexican doctors because they already compete in an oversaturated labor market. In addition, they highlighted that Cuban doctors do not meet the legal requirements to work in the country. Therefore, the government is giving them preferential treatment by employing them, reported El Economista.
"In our country there are doctors with capacity endorsed by the universities of the Republic, trained with full knowledge of the needs and idiosyncrasies of our population. Some of the country’s doctors unemployed or partially employed with very low salaries or in areas of extreme insecurity," read a letter to the president signed by more than 30 health associations.
In addition, the associations argue that according to the document The Training of Medical Specialists in Mexico, signed by Germán Fajardo Dolci, Director of the Faculty of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico currently has no standards to measure its medical needs, nor the number of specialists or their distribution. As a result, knowing with certainty whether there is a shortage or a surplus of medical practicioners is impossible, reported Expansion Politica.
The negotiation for the hiring of doctors took place during López Obrador's fourth presidential trip abroad, during which he met with key countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. On May 8, López Obrador and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel agreed that Cuban doctors would once again support Mexico’s health system. The presidents furthermore signed two health cooperation agreements to promote medical training and research and emergency assistance, as well as to create a legal framework to foster technical, scientific and academic cooperation. López Obrador explained that the main objective of the countries is to address the impacts of COVID-19 and other pandemics.