Cuban doctors in Spain: "We want to help, but we are tied hand and foot"

Spain is dragging dramatic figures for the number of infections and deaths from coronavirus, but also for health workers who have been infected by Covid-19, whose number now exceeds 12,000 cases.

Cuban doctors in Spain: "We want to help, but we are tied hand and foot"

Spain is dragging dramatic figures for the number of infections and deaths from coronavirus, but also for health workers who have been infected by Covid-19, whose number now exceeds 12,000 cases. This has led the Government of Pedro Sánchez to announce its intention to streamline the procedures so that 200 resident foreign health professionals can join the National Health System (SNS) to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This measure would allow priority to be given to the processing of residence and work permits, as well as the homologation of titles, which currently can last up to two years. Four ministries would work in coordination on this: Inclusion, Social Security and Migration; that of Universities, that of Health and that of Territorial Policy and Public Function.

This announcement comes as hundreds of foreign doctors have shown their willingness to help in the fight against the Covid-19 virus, and are unable to do so. This is the case of the Cuban collective that resides in our country, which a few days ago launched an initiative through Change.org. In it,  200 doctors offered «their total support to Health and the Spanish people and their willingness to join us immediately and move from our places of residence to the communities that need our help, since we were trained under humanistic principles and love for our profession ». Several of these doctors have shared their situation with ABC, subtracting any political overtones from their claim. His only goal is "to be able to help."

Mabel Olivia, 27, is one of the doctors who signed this petition. With residence in Barcelona, ​​she is a family doctor and came to Spain to study for a MIR five months ago. As a result of the arrival of Covid-19 in our country, she decided to approach the Catalan Institute of Health, together with a group that represented the Cuban collective. There they demanded the homologation of the title. They were rejected due to the lack of this procedure, as well as "the residence or work permit of some colleagues," she admits. In Madrid, something similar happened, as she recalls, when some Cuban professionals showed up at the Gregorio Marañón with the same result.

Mabel, who is in Spain on a student permit, confesses her "impotence" at not being able to do anything. «They are hiring sixth-year students, while in our group there are doctors with a lot of experience who have faced extreme situations...».

That is the case of Melva, a 55-year-old doctor who has lived in our country for two years. She sent her title thirteen months ago to be homologated and she still hasn't received it; neither does she have a residency or a work contract. "I have the appointment for April 8 for political asylum, but it will be closed," she laments. Melva has extensive experience in humanitarian catastrophes: «I was in the tsunami in Pakistan, five years in Venezuela, in Haiti, when the earthquake; in Sierra Leone, with the Ebola epidemic; and also in Guatemala...» She currently lives in Madrid, where she has been called – this very Thursday – to work in a residence, but when they learned of her irregular situation they have not accepted her. She believes that in the face of the health crisis that the country is going through, some procedures should be “flexible”. “Many Cuban doctors in the group have been willing to participate in volunteer work. We have even written to President Pedro Sánchez, various autonomous communities and political parties offering our efforts. But we have not received a response », she points out.

The laxity in the homologation of titles – "there are colleagues who have been waiting 18 or 19 months and still have no answer," indicates Melva – is what has dozens of doctors stranded in a vicious circle that makes it impossible for them to offer their services in a scenario that is going to get worse, as the Government itself has acknowledged. Confined with her family, Melva confesses that she feels “tied hand and foot, unable to do anything. Complying with the rules, and waiting for the peak to pass and begin to descend.

The situation of Reinaldo Ramos, 33, is different. He is approved and registered in Las Palmas, but he could not present the residence paperwork "because everything closed these days, so I am in an irregular situation," he admits. “My willingness is to help. I've signed up for all the lists." A specialist in emergency medicine and with knowledge of intensive care, he affirms that they even assigned him a place in a hospital, "but the moment I explained that I did not have papers, they told me that it was impossible to get me a contract." Now he is waiting for how a situation that affects many health workers "not only Cubans, but also of other nationalities" evolves.

Ariel, 33, another Cuban doctor who lives in Martorell (Barcelona), claims, for his part, that "if the country decided to seek help elsewhere", as has happened in Italy - where they have received fifty doctors sent by the Government of Cuba, “call us, we are already here. That they think of us before we are on the list to be approved. And we want to help."


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