President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday expressed her thanks for the rapid response of doctors from Latin American countries to the call issued by Brazil for medical professionals to serve in the country's most remote and poorest areas.
"I thank those who came to Brazil without their families and who showed immense love for the Brazilian people. They came to help us. This country will be eternally grateful to them," she said after signing the law that regulates the hiring of foreign physicians.
The president called the response "the most perfect and most complete demonstration of the integration of Latin America."
Rousseff, at a ceremony with some 600 doctors in attendance, said that Latin Americans, mainly Cubans and Argentines, are "the center of the More Doctors Program."
"By April 2014, we intend to have some 13,000 doctors signed up for the program. With that, we'll be able to guarantee that about 46 million Brazilians are receiving quality medical attention," she said.
"More doctors ... will mean fewer illnesses. And that is a basic equation," she said.
Rousseff said that the project seeks to attend to one of the national pacts she proposed exactly 120 days ago during a televised speech in which she promised answers to the millions of Brazilians who had then taken to the streets demanding better public services.
"The pacts (for health, education and public transport) responded to the demands of the movements in June and coincided with what the government considered to be important matters that merited attention. What we proposed then is starting to become reality," she said.
The law approved Tuesday allows the Health Ministry to authorize foreigners to practice medicine in the country, circumventing obstacles erected by the Brazilian physicians' guild.
The More Doctors Program in its early phases allowed the hiring of 3,407 foreign or Brazilian doctors trained abroad, including 2,000 Cubans, but just 1,232 have obtained permission to work to date.
The foreign doctors saw a total of 320,000 patients last month, according to the Health Ministry.
Figures from the World Health Organization show Brazil has only 1.8 physicians per 1,000 residents, compared with 3.7 in Uruguay and 3.2 in Argentina. EFE