Cuban doctors came at our request - Minister of Health


Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the Cuban medical brigade that arrived in South Africa on Monday, came at the government's request.

"The Cuban doctors are coming at our request to reinforce as they have strength in community treatment. Our model is about 'if you are sick, you go to the hospital'. Cuba has a different model.

"We welcome them and we want to assure everyone that they will not take anyone's posts and they will be working alongside South Africans. There should not be anyone that feels that they are a threat to [local employment]," Mkhize said at a virtual media briefing on Tuesday.

This came after just more than 200 healthcare professionals landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria in the early hours of Monday morning to assist in the fight against Covid-19 in the country. South Africa currently has 4 996 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 93 deaths.

READ | More than 200 Cuban doctors arrive in SA

According to the minister, the Cuban doctors will be spread across the country based on the weight of the outbreak.

Western Cape: 25 doctors

Gauteng: 29

KwaZulu-Natal: 28

Eastern Cape: 20

Free State: 17

Mpumalanga: 13

Limpopo: 13

North West: 13

Northern Cape: 11

SA has not depleted its internal resources - SAMA

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) is of the view that this move to bring in healthcare workers from outside the country, was "a bit premature" as internal resources are still available.

"There are a lot of doctors that have been retired that one can rope into this discussion – they at least have a lot of experience and they have a lot of wealth and knowledge so SAMA would have loved to have first seen them being approached," Dr Angelique Coetzee told News24 on Tuesday.

"[And] because they understand our country they could also mentor the younger doctors. Once you deplete those avenues then you bring in people from other countries," she said.

SAMA further said it takes no issue with the Cuban brigade of medical doctors who arrived on Monday but the organisation, which represents 16 000 medical doctors in the country, has some concerns.

"They are coming from a mostly Spanish-speaking country – it might be difficult when putting them in rural areas, SA's burden of HIV and TB might not be familiar to the physicians coming in," Coetzee added.

"In addition, not the entire brigade includes medical doctors - some will be supervising, which our own doctors could have done. They [Cuban doctors] are needed but at this stage we are coping quite well with Covid-19, it would be better for them to come in later if necessary."

READ | Large consignment of PPE arrive in SA

News24 sent questions to the health minister's spokesperson, Dr Lwazi Manzi, during the virtual briefing regarding the costs of the Cuban medical brigade and SAMA's concerns.

Comment will be added once it is received.

READ | Follow our live coverage here

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