President Dilma Rousseff on Monday announced a public health plan that would allow the hiring of foreign doctors to serve residents of poor suburbs and remote rural areas when no Brazilian doctors are available.
The initiative, which is intended to respond to complaints about healthcare that featured prominently in last month's nationwide protests, includes increasing the supply of domestically trained doctors and an ambitious program of hospital-building.
But, in addition, it attempts to remedy the lack of medical professionals in the outlying areas of large cities and in the remote zones of the country's north and northeast.
Flanked by lawmakers, state governors, mayors, representatives of social movements and university chancellors, Rousseff said that this is about listening to "the fair and incontestable demand of Brazilians" for better healthcare.
"One cannot force a doctor who prefers to live in a capital to work in the interior," she acknowledged, though insisting on the need "to admit honestly that something must be done so that all Brazilians have access to a doctor."
Health Minister Alexandre Padilha presented data showing that Brazil currently has 1.8 doctors per 1,000 residents, compared with 3.7 in Uruguay, 3.2 in Argentina and 4 physicians per 1,000 residents in Spain.
"To get to the level of Spain we need about 400,000 (additional) doctors," said Padilha, rebutting medical associations' claims that Brazil has enough doctors.
This year, 35,000 new jobs for doctors will be created in public hospitals in the areas surrounding big cities and in the north and northeastern parts of the country with salaries of 10,000 reais ($4,540) per month.
Nevertheless, he said that if those posts are not occupied by Brazilian professionals, applications will be accepted from foreign doctors for three-year contracts. EFE