87 Cuba-trained doctors graduate from WSU

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The national Health Department has announced that 87 South African medical doctors who were trained in Cuba had graduated at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. “This is the largest group to graduate under the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme since its inception in 1996. This brings the total to 731 of the medical doctors who have graduated from the programme and currently employed in various public hospitals around the country,” departmental spokesperson Foster Mohale is quoted in The Citizen as saying.

Mohale said the graduation of the doctors was a boost to medical care. “This is a major boost not only for increasing the output of medical personnel and strengthening primary health care (PHC), but also for the success of National Health Insurance (NHI), the flagship programme to change the quality, efficiency and the effectiveness of the healthcare system by ensuring that right to access is not determined by the socio-economic conditions of an individual.”

Mohale said in the report that Cuba was a country of choice for medical training due to their successful implementation of the PHC model, which supported universal health coverage and remained the key strategic objective of the NHI in South Africa.

Mohale said the medical training programme was founded in an attempt to complement and increase the production of medical doctors in South Africa. “The main focus was to address the over-concentration of health personnel in urban areas and in the exclusionary private sector; insufficient personnel who were also not in possession of the necessary training and the under-provision of health care in rural and peri-urban areas as well as informal settlements.”

He said the new doctors completed five years of medical studies in Cuba and one year of clinical training in the country’s universities as part of their integration into the South African health system. The universities include Stellenbosch, Limpopo, Free State, Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal, WSU, Cape Town, and Gauteng and Wits.

The report says the graduates were from Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape.

The vice-chancellor and principal of Walter Sisulu University, Professor Rob Midgley congratulated the graduates for successfully completing their academic programme.

“You have now become a member of an elite group of graduates who join the ranks of medical professionals that will serve the world. Your success has furthered our commitment to equipping the future generation of South Africans with the skills and determination that they will need to find innovative and sustainable solutions to the national and global challenges of today. We know that you will enter the next stage of your journey with a passion to bring positive changes to tomorrow,” said Midgley.

Representing the Cuban government, the report says Ambassador of Cuba to South Africa, Honourable Rodolfo Benitez Verson, reminded the graduates of their obligation to serve the society with diligence as people demanded and deserved their competence. “The golden rule for a sustainable health care system is prevention. We hope that you sustain and promote that notion as you embark in your duties as agents of a healthy life for all and social justice,” he said.

Mohale said as stewards of change and good ambassadors of the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the new graduates are expected to assist South Africa towards a more PHC-centred approach in the delivery of health care services and to address the current and emerging challenges in the health care system.

The Citizen report

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