Narissa Subramoney
Copy rewriter
2 minute read
11 May 2022
4:12 pm

Gauteng Health will continue recruiting students for Cuban medical program

Narissa Subramoney

SA's relationship with Cuba is questioned as Gauteng Health announces it is continuing with the Cuban medical program.

Picture for illustration purposes. (Photo by Katell ABIVEN / AFP)

Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi has revealed that more students will be recruited for the controversial Cuban medicine study program.

The number of Gauteng students studying medicine in Cuba decreased from 264 in 2019 to 25 last year.

Responding to questions by the DA’s Jack Bloom in the Gauteng Legislature, Mokgethi said there were 264 students in Cuba in 2019, 114 in 2020, 25 in 2021 and 25 this year.

But she reportedly said the SA Cuba Binational Agreement is ongoing with more recruitments planned.

“It is disappointing that the department wishes to continue with a programme that is more than double the cost of local medical training,” said Bloom.

“It also takes two years longer as there is an extra year to learn Spanish and they spend another year finalising their training at a South African medical school.”

Historical problems and a corruption probe

Mokgethi’s announcement of further recruits for the Cuban medical studies program is worrying.

The provincial treasury is currently doing a forensic audit on suspected corruption in this programme which had a budget of R313 million last year.

Back in March, the DA reported that the department of health was still paying expert Cuban doctors high salaries despite expired contracts and unemployed local doctors, with many vacant positions left frozen.

Additionally, 2019’s batch of students had appealed to then Health Minister Zweli Mhkize for help after economic reforms in Cuba affected their ability to get proper nutrition and housing.

Shortages were so dire that some don’t even have access to necessities like sanitary pads.

Furthermore, in January, civil organisation Afriforum flagged the ‘long history of extremely questionable cooperation and relations between South Africa and Cuba.’

Afriforum said the National Defence Force had irregularly procured Covid-19 drugs worth R228 million, which they had to return.

“SA also saw it with the water engineering scandal when the government announced they would employ Cuban water engineers to sort out the country’s water infrastructure,” AfriForum’s campaign officer Reinier Duvenage.

“The new [R50 million] donation to Cuba is just the next event in this very troubling series of events,” he added.

“Gauteng should follow the Western Cape Health Department which refuses to participate in this expensive programme,” said Bloom.

Bloom said the money would be better spent to expand training at the three medical schools in Gauteng rather than paying an exorbitant amount for overseas training that still requires an extra year of local training.

NOW READ: SA-based Cuban doctors take home salaries while intern doctors remain unpaid