While many local doctors are unemployed, and vacant positions frozen, and despite its tardiness in paying its own junior doctors, Gauteng Health spent R30.3m on Cuban doctors last year, reports The Citizen.
While many local doctors are unemployed, and vacant positions frozen, and despite its tardiness in paying its own junior doctors, Gauteng Health spent R30.3m on Cuban doctors last year.
And despite expired contracts, it continues to employ 14 Cuban doctors, each earning between R78,000 and R91,000 a month.
Originally, 28 Cuban doctors were hired in May 2020 for a one-year contract, which expired in May last year, but the remaining 14 continue to be employed in Gauteng, reports The Citizen.
Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said the 14 were working at Primary Health Care facilities, and were employed “because of a government-to-government agreement entered into by South Africa in 1996”.
“Cuba as a country is known for having the best health outcomes, and their experience in prevention and health promotion would assist in strengthening the District Health System,” she said in their defence.
She added that they “also serve as mentors and coaches for the doctors who are placed at Primary Health Care facilities, especially the South African Cuban-trained doctors”.
Jack Bloom, the DA’s shadow MEC of health, said he doubted that the Cuban doctors would add expertise that was not available locally. “Some of them do not speak English well and they are not familiar with local health conditions.” He added that local intern doctors were overworked and many unpaid: “They do invaluable work in 12-hour shifts, but things are getting desperate as some of them are going hungry and donʼt have money for transport.”
This week, outstanding salaries were paid to a number of junior doctors who had been waiting two months for their money. Many had been relying on handouts from senior colleagues at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital to survive, according to news reports.
Bloom said government money “should be spent on South Africans rather than wasted on Cuban doctors and expensive Cuban medical training, which is being probed for suspected corruption”.
“Itʼs no surprise, but there is something deeply fishy about this because we have unemployed local doctors and unfilled medical posts,” he said.
AfriForumʼs campaign officer Reinier Duvenage said there was a long history of extremely questionable cooperation and relations between South Africa and Cuba.
“We saw this during the COVID [pandemic], the scandal where Cuban medical personnel were employed to fight the pandemic, which costs millions of rands, while our doctors remained unemployed,” he said.
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