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

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • The salaries of the medical personnel from Cuba will cost South Africa R239 million over the next year.
  • Zweli Mkhize claims they were brought in because SA doesn't provide enough biostatisticians, epidemiologists, family physicians and health technologists.
  • Their accommodation will be more than R6 million - and that is without the costs for Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal.

The South African government will pay more than R239 million in salaries for the 187 members of the Cuban medical brigade, who, according to Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize, are specialists in areas in which South Africa has shortages.

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube asked for more information on the Cuban doctors, who arrived in South Africa to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic amid much fanfare on 27 April.

"To date, the Republic of Cuba has availed 187 medical specialists, who will be assisting South Africa in the response to Covid-19," reads Mkhize's response.

He added that they are specialists in areas that the country is unable to produce enough capacity in.

"These are qualified in biostatisticians, epidemiologists, family physicians and health technologists," he said.

The contingent includes the following:

  • 116 family physicians, whose salaries total R172 767 798;
  • 32 health technologists, whose salaries total R25 941 166;
  • 18 epidemiology technologists, whose salaries total R14 715 735;
  • 13 biostatisticians, whose salaries total R19 566 449;
  • 5 biomedical engineers, whose salaries total R2 773 887;
  • 2 public health specialists, whose salaries total R2 231 276; and
  • 1 nurse, whose salary is R528 852.

This brings the total salaries to R239 181 933.

"The estimated budget cost is informed by actual appointment levels of the Cuban Health Brigade as determined by their Registration category, which took into consideration years of experience. All the Family Physicians and Biostatisticians are appointed at Grade 2 of Medical Officer level and Epidemiology Technologists/ Health Technology and Public Health Specialists are at Deputy Director level while Biomedical Engineers are at ASD level," reads Mkhize's explanation on how the salaries were calculated.

READ | Eastern Cape hotspots to be zoned in on as Mkhize turns attention to 'vulnerable' province

The government also shelled out R734 100 for the brigade's registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), but this will be recovered.

"It is a norm that the registration cost is paid by an individual health professional to the Council. However, as per the Government-to-Government Agreement, the South African [government] pays the fee to the HPCSA and, thereafter, deduct the full amount of registration from the individual health professionals' first salary. This means there is no actual cost to be incurred by the South African government, however, it is a convenient process arranged to ensure that all of the professionals are registered accordingly," Mkhize's answer explained.

Mkhize said most provinces have entered into agreements with service providers to accommodate the medical personnel for 12 months.

"Other provinces are only accommodating the brigade for May and June and then move them to hotspots districts/communities. Therefore, the accommodation in these areas is still not confirmed, as negotiations are still underway."

A total of R6 117 464 has been budgeted for accommodation for six of the nine provinces. The three provinces that are yet to provide figures are Mpumalanga, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

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