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Home  Healthcare Articles  Barrio Adentro

   Barrio Adentro

Barrio Adentro ("Inside the neighborhood", or "Into the neighborhood") is a government-sponsored Venezuelan program to provide free health care and dental care to poor and traditionally underserved communities. The project includes the construction of medical clinics and accommodations for doctors in both urban and rural districts that previously had little or no access to health care, importation and payment of thousands of Cuban doctors, and the training and retraining of thousands of Venezuelan doctors, both in Venezuela and in Cuba. The Venezuelan government claims that 18 million people, or nearly 70% of the population, has been treated through Barrio Adentro.

The program started in March, 2003 in the Libertador neighborhood of the Venezuelan capital Caracas, and has expanded rapidly to the rest of the country. At least 15,000 Cuban doctors have been put to work in Venezuela, where they are paid about $250 per month, less than private doctors earn in Venezuela (and less than Venezuelan doctors were offered to participate in Barrio Adentro), but considerably more than they were paid in Cuba. Venezuela, in exchange, is providing Cuba with oil at below market rates. This is one of many such partnerships Venezuela and Cuba have made, to provide Cuba with oil and Venezuela with professionals and expertise.

Venezuelan political opponents of President Hugo Chávez and his Movement for the Fifth Republic party have charged that the Cuban Barrio Adentro doctors are agents of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba invited by Chávez to propagandize the Venezuelan population. The Venezuelan Ministry of Health claims that it was unable to find a large enough supply of adequately-trained Venezeulan doctors willing to provide free care in poor areas. The Venezuelan Medical Federation (FVM) has lobbied against the plan, filing a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the Cuban doctors from practicing medicine, arguing that they are unlicensed.

The program has drawn international praise from the Latin American branch of the World Health Organization, and representatives from Saudi Arabia have visited Venezuela to study the program in order to consider implementing similar programs in their own country.

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