"Specialists should not abandon the country," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez. "And a recent graduate should give his service for a time. This is a very costly and long training period."
Doctors here say that beginning around July, all physicians who want to leave the country were told they must first work at least three years in the countryside. Specialists must put in at least five years.
Gonzalez said he had no information on whether the new rules applied to temporary visits abroad.
It was the first government confirmation of the rules, which evidently went into effect several months ago. Gonzalez said the regulations were considered necessary following a recent drop in the number of medical school graduates in Cuba. He offered no specific numbers.
Cuba's free health care and the country's large population of highly trained physicians are a source of great pride to communist officials, who point to them as among the most important achievements of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
The government has also taken pride in loaning its doctors to other countries hard hit by disaster and war.
The island nation continues to loan scores of doctors to Central American nations still recovering from the devastation caused last year by Hurricane Mitch. President Fidel Castro on Thursday greeted a returning group of Cuban doctors who completed a tour of service in Honduras.
At the new Latin American Medical School, Cuba is now also providing free medical training to hundreds of students from Central America and other parts of Latin America.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press