In response to widespread street protests in Brazil last month, the country's president, Dilma Rousseff, has announced plans to hire 10,000 doctors to work in the country's underserved areas. The initiative is one of the wider reforms put forth in the aftermath of the protests, which took government leaders by surprise and were a reaction to everything from poor transportation, health care and education, unbridled corruption and a high cost of living, to exorbitant public spending on new stadiums for next year's FIFA World Cup.
As part of the reforms, an additional 11,500 spots will be added for new medical students over the next four years. Students finishing medical school will also need to contribute two years working in the public sector following their 6-year medical education.
The "More Doctors" program would also involve hiring foreign doctors for the first time starting in September -- but only in positions not already filled by Brazilians. Job vacancies are set to be posted by the end of the month. Doctors would be paid $10,000 reais (around US$4,500) per month.
"The More Doctors programme does not have a primary goal of bringing doctors from abroad, but chiefly of taking more health services to the inner country," President Dilma Rousseff said.
Doctor's associations have bristled under previous efforts to recruit foreign doctors, and many Brazilians would argue that this is half the battle -- even the doctors who already fill posts in underserved areas struggle with a dire lack of resources and equipment. But the president also said the country would invest R$7.4 billion in improved infrastructure and equipment for health centers and hospitals.
The government's proposal may be a promising first step, suggesting that the president is indeed responding to public frustrations. What remains to be seen is whether similar reforms will affect other areas sorely in need of investment.
Photo: Agência de Notícias do Acre