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News: Social Programs

Venezuela’s Community Doctors Gain Legal Recognition

Mérida, November 2nd 2011 ( – After a reform to the Medical Practice Law, the new integral community doctors, trained through the Mission Sucre and Barrio Adentro programs, have legal recognition. 8,200 students will be the first to graduate next month.

Yesterday the National Assembly approved a reform to the law which dates back to 1982, in order to include community medicine doctors within its framework.

The Integral Community Medicine course began in practice in 2005 and formally in 2007. It is taught through Mission Sucre, also known as the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, in all states of Venezuela, as well as at some other universities such as the National Experimental University of the Armed Forces.

Cuban and Venezuelan doctors teach the course, which balances theory and practice in the barrio adentro clinics, meanwhile doctors, based the communities, treat patients, but also promote good health practices, prevention of illness, and assist with treatment and rehabilitation.

The reforms to the law only involve modifying articles 3, 4 and 35 to include the words ‘integral community doctors’ in the list of types of doctors or degrees that are valid and able to practice.

There are currently 26,015 students of integral community medicine. 8,200 students will graduate this December and 6,000 next year. Of those graduating next month, around 2,000 will be assigned to the rural hospital network and the others will rotate in hospitals and surgeries around the country. There are no fees for the program and the state provides a monthly stipend for student living expenses.

“We have teachers from both countries [Cuba and Venezuela], and the doors are open for anyone to study, their age or origin doesn’t matter,” said health minister Eugenia Sader.

Referring to remarks made by the opposition and private press, Sader said, “It’s illogical that they say those things of people, because they want to make it political, they are damaging the reputation of these professionals. The integral community doctors are a great achievement for this revolutionary process because the country is breaking a record by graduating 8,200 doctors at one time”.

Opposition legislator Orlando Avila proposed an extra paragraph in the discussion of the reform which specified that the community doctors are “limited to the first level of medical attention” and that they would need further training to work at higher levels of medicine, presumably as surgeons or specialists. His proposal was voted against.

Further, the National Academy of Medicine has spread lies about the program, saying doctors are only trained for three years. In fact students study for six years, with a total of 14,084 hours of classes and practice, while traditional medicine students study for 8,500 hours. On top of the six years, community students also do six months of studies prior to the course, in other subject areas such as biology and mathematics.

Explaining the difference between the new community doctors and traditional ones, Antonio Torres, national coordinator of the community medicine program said, “In traditional medicine...what is important is specialisation, managing to get one’s own private clinic...whereas the humanist and community vision of medicine prioritises primary attention... that isn’t a small thing, it’s at the first level where 85% of health problems are intercepted.”

He also criticised traditional medical courses for not being able to “respond to social problems... such ‘shut-away’ type training doesn’t provide good results because it trains a theorist doctor who isn’t linked in with the real and concrete problems of the people. Practice has to be included in the curriculum from the first year of the course, and that’s why our program is called ‘community’, because the students go out to the communities right from the start”.

Published on Nov 2nd 2011 at 6.37pm