What benefits do Cuban doctors bring to SA? Zweli Mkhize explains

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Cuban doctors during a welcome ceremony for Cuban health workers who were deployed to the Western Cape to support efforts in the fight against Covid-19 on 24 May in Cape Town.
Cuban doctors during a welcome ceremony for Cuban health workers who were deployed to the Western Cape to support efforts in the fight against Covid-19 on 24 May in Cape Town.
Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says Cuban doctors have been employed to reinforce the healthcare system and not replace local doctors. 
  • The minister says the Cubans' approach to primary healthcare and prevention is what sets them apart. 
  • Cuban doctors are adding value in terms of combating preventable diseases as well, Mkhize says. 

 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says Cuban doctors are adding value in the battle against Covid-19 in South Africa because they are "among the best" in the world. 

The minister was reacting to a question during a virtual briefing on Friday where he provided feedback on the deployment of the "Cuban Brigade" to assist in battling the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa. 

"Firstly, we have employed as many South African doctors as we have available. We invited the Cuban team to assist us for two reasons: we needed additional reinforcement; and secondly, because the Cuban team has a special focus on community health orientation in their primary healthcare."

This is an added benefit, Mkhize said, as it focuses not only on a curative approach, but assesses the underlying factors that lead to disease in communities and assists in prevention. 

READ | R239 million in salaries - this is what SA will have to pay the Cuban medical brigade

"You need to have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges individuals face before you focus on what medication you are going to give them. That is the huge advantage of having Cuban doctors. 

Strong focus on primary healthcare

"In fact, when we said we needed to partner with Cuba, we wanted to have doctors with that type of orientation, who will be able to rebuild our health system. Therefore, what Cuba brings that South Africa doesn't have is a strong focus on primary healthcare.

"Right now in South Africa, we don't have enough doctors that focus on primary healthcare. We need more of them. 

"Cuba has one doctor for every 250 people - that is a huge achievement. We are very far from that. 

"South Africa has lots of development and technical and medical expertise, but there are gaps. Cuba is among the best."

Mkhize said Cuba was adding value in terms of combating preventable diseases through their "different approach" to public health policies. 

Cuban doctors not replacing South Africans

The minster said his department had approached the South African Medical Association about unemployed local doctors. "When they find them, they must employ them," Mkhize said. 

"Lots of people are saying that there are South African doctors who are not employed; yet, they are not registered. That's a completely different issue. You can't say a doctor is unemployed and yet they haven't passed the board exams."

Mkhize said local doctors are being fully utilised and employed. 

"No Cuban doctor has taken the place of a South African doctor. They have come to reinforce [the existing healthcare system]."

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