Tuesday, 25 June, 2024
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DA calls for release of Cuban student programme annual report

The DA has written to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla asking for the annual report of the controversial Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration programme, saying it appears the scheme is just “another avenue to ensure funds are routed to Cuba”.

The programme has been questioned for years, with experts like Professor Shabir Madhi, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, saying that “many provinces continue to fund students to undertake studies in other countries, including Cuba, under the pretext of SA not being able to train enough doctors, which is incoherent with the policy of not listing medical skills under the critical skills set”.

Writing in Politicsweb, Haseena Ismail, DA member on the Portfolio Committee of Health, said while the programme might have originated from a genuine goal of strengthening South Africa’s health sector, “over the past few years, the government has tried every trick in the book to ensure taxpayer money reaches Cuban shores – from illegally importing Interferon (Heberon Alpha-2B) via the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Operation Thusano, which has made payments of R1.4bn to Cuba; extending a R63m ‘Economic Assistance Package’ loan to Cuba in the previous financial year; the cumulative R308m to employ 229 doctors and 65 Cuban engineers; to the R50m in food donation, forming part of a larger donation of R350m”.

With a critical skills shortage of 27 000 in the health sector, added Ismail, South Africa needs every qualified doctor.

“But given its astronomical cost, the Department of Health’s unwillingness to ensure other foreign-trained doctors are registered, the annual chaos of placing community service doctors, and the relatively small number of Cuban graduates, it is clear that the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration programme deserves close scrutiny.”

The DA is hoping for an urgent response from Phaahla.


Politicsweb article – DA requests Cuban medical programme annual report from Health Minister (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Cuban medical training costs more than double than in SA


SANDF Military Command refuses to co-operate with Public Protector on Cuban Interferon


Provinces to pay another R45m for Cuban students following currency ‘miscalculation’


Costly Cuban doctor training programme drains provincial budgets



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