HAVANA -- Cuba is eliminating longstanding restrictions on health care professionals' overseas travel as part of a broader migration reform that takes effect next week, an island doctor told The Associated Press on Monday.
Hospital directors learned of the new policy, which takes effect Jan. 14, in a Saturday meeting with Health Minister Roberto Morales and word of the change was relayed in hospital staff meetings, according to the doctor, who attended one of the subsequent gatherings.
The minister's directive: "A doctor will be treated like any other citizen starting now and can exit freely, as long as the destination country allows it" by issuing an entry visa, said the physician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to foreign journalists.
"Apparently it has been completely repealed," he said. "No restrictions of any kind."
Another doctor confirmed that she had been told of the new policy.
For many years Cuban doctors have been limited in their ability to travel or had to undergo cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. They are routinely denied permission to travel or receive it only if they plan to leave for good and after a five-year process of being released from their duties.
The restrictions were justified as necessary to prevent brain drain from a sector that is the pride of Cuba's Communist leaders, and which lost thousands of skilled professionals in the 1960s as the