HAVANA — Cuban doctors will begin arriving in Ecuador in December as part of a 1,000-member medical team hired by Quito's leftist government to supplement the local healthcare system.
Cuba's foreign ministry said Wednesday the arrangement was signed during a recent visit to Havana by Ecuadoran Health Minister Roberto Morales.
Specialists in primary care, epidemiology, and physical rehabilitation, who begin arriving from Cuba next month, "will help strengthen the capacities" of health officials in Ecuador, the foreign ministry said.
Cuba has long provided free medical assistance to poorer countries like Haiti, but in recent years has turned to exports of doctors as an important source of revenues.
Medical services is by far the biggest sector of the Cuban economy, generating about $8 billion a year. Tourism, the next biggest sector, generates $2.5 billion.
Tens of thousands of Cuban medical and other personnel are in Venezuela at the invitation of its leftist government, and this year Brazil hired 4,000 Cuban medical personnel to work in under-served areas.
In Ecuador, as in Brazil, local medical organizations have bridled at the programs, saying they subsidize the Cuban medical system at the expense of their own.
The Ecuadoran Medical Federation has complained that $30 million used to pay the Cuban doctors could be used to hire and train Ecuadoran doctors in primary care and family medicine.