Solidarity urges SA's own medical sector workers be prioritised over Cubans

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Trade union Solidarity said that it noted government’s import of Cuban medical practitioners, engineers and staff to manage COVID-19, and that the welfare of South Africa's own medical sector workers should be prioritised.

According to a Polity report, the union said this must be seen in light of the fact that a large number of medically qualified South Africans are currently prevented from practising medicine. Henru Krüger, head of the Solidarity Professional Guild for Health Practitioners said Solidarity believed there was a misconception regarding the prosperity of the medical world during the time of the pandemic.

Doctors and medical staff were severely hampered by government’s current lockdown measures, he said, which entailed that almost no medical services could be provided in the private sector. Only emergency and chronic health services are excluded from the measures.

“The government shamelessly boasts about the luxury of having highly qualified and highly paid assistance from overseas while our own local practitioners and personnel are experiencing hardships,” Krüger argued.

“With this action, local medical staff feel that the government is not demonstrating the same degree of sympathy for our local medical personnel, and that they are not considered to be important enough to receive assistance in their darkest hour,” he said.

Most healthcare practitioners in South Africa practice as sole proprietors, and therefore they do not qualify for relief funds in terms of the current regulations. "Money must, therefore, also be ploughed back into our own country," Krüger said. “Charity begins at home, and the government should also offer assistance to the local medical industry.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, meanwhile, criticised South Africa and Qatar for accepting doctors from Cuba to battle the coronavirus, accusing the communist island of profiting from the pandemic, reports News24. Cuba's globe-trotting doctors have long been a source of diplomatic soft power and pride for Havana, but the US says the medical workers only benefit their government and has encouraged them to defect.

"We've noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers," Pompeo is quoted in the report as saying. "We applaud leaders in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and other countries, which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime, and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar," he said.

The report says Cuba has sent doctors to more than a dozen countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hard-hit Italy. France has also authorised Cuban teams to help in its overseas territories.

Cuba has made healthcare a societal pillar, despite the poverty of the island, which has been subject to US sanctions for six decades.

Full Polity report

Full News24 report

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