Cuban doctors have been ‘making a difference’ for 15 years

2011-07-12 00:00

KWAZULU-Natal health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo welcomed a Cuban delegation for a joint academic meeting and the 15th Anniversary celebrations of the South African Cuban Health Agreement, which has produced 282 medical doctors so far.

The delegation comprised of academics and medical specialists who will engage in the week-long meeting which started in Durban yesterday.

They will discuss a joint training programme for doctors, which has helped South African students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The delegation first visited Greys Hospital yesterday morning where Cuba has seven doctors serving there.

In the other parts of the province there are 21 Cuban doctors and Greys chief executive Dr Ben Bilenge feels that they are making a difference in his hospital.

“The Cubans are doing a tremendous job with the local doctors either going private or going oversees. Government has done and is still doing its part in improving the health system but local doctors are still leaving,” said Dr Bilenge during the visit at Greys.

On Thursday 26 local doctors who studied in Cuba will graduate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

These doctors will be expected to serve one year internship in the public sector.

Vice- Chancellor of Cubas University of Cienfuegos Dr Roberto Baños said the relationship between the two countries is solid.

“For 15 years we have been working together for the better of the SA community, and we are going forward. During our stay here we will participate in a joint academic meeting of Deans of medicine faculties from both countries and we hope to come up with ways to strengthen our relationship,” said Dr Baños.

Health spokesperson Chris Maxon said the 15th Anniversary of health sector cooperation between the two countries is a significant milestone because Cuba is a long-standing ally of South Africa.

He said in an attempt to stop the “poaching” of local doctors MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo encourages communities to identify eligible students who are interested in studying medicine.

“These students will then come and serve in their own communities after completing their studies. The department will fund the studies through bursaries and exchange programs. In this way the department hopes that after graduating, the students will have the heart to serve their own communities, rather than to abandon them,” said Maxon.

The 15th anniversary celebration will be held from 9 am to 1 pm at Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC, Hall 2 in Durban on Friday.

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