Cuban doctors will cost South African taxpayers R440 million – Reports

A leaked document alleges that health specialists from Cuba sent to South Africa will cost the country R440 million, while many local health professionals are unemployed.

This week 217 Cuban doctors from various disciplines arrived in South Africa to help with the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

The deployment of the Cuban specialists came after a request by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the President of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said South Africa stands to benefit from the arrival of the Cuban medical brigade.

Mkhize said the Cuban doctors have a particular strength in the case of community medicine, which is helpful in approaching the outbreak of COVID-19.

He said the doctors have been allocated to various provinces on the basis of the weight of the outbreak, where they will work alongside South African medical professionals.

Mkhize stressed that the Cuban doctors are not here to fill vacancies, but are in the country to help contain the outbreak.

R440-million price tag – Reports

Business Day and The Citizen reported that the doctors and health specialists which arrived from Cuba come with a R440-million price tag.

It should be noted that the health department would not confirm or deny the information contained in the leaked document which was used for these reports.

According to the document, the cost associated with the Cuban health professionals include:

  • R9.9 million for a chartered flight to bring the Cuban medics to South Africa.
  • R294.5 million in salaries for 12 months.
  • R12 million set to be spent on accommodation and meals.
  • R734,000 for registering the doctors with the SA Health Professions Council.

Criticism from South African Medical Association

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has raised concerns about the arrival of the 217 health specialists from Cuba.

“While we are not averse to the Cuban brigade assisting us, we feel strongly that the principle of not engaging with SAMA is flawed and wrong,” said SAMA chairperson Angelique Coetzee.

Coetzee said the money spent on bringing the Cuban specialists to South Africa would have been better spent on first employing local doctors.

She added that many local health professionals have the necessary skills and experience to drive this process, especially in rural areas.

“There are many unemployed doctors in South Africa and many community service medical officers have still not been placed,” Coetzee said.

She highlighted that many private practitioners have also indicated their willingness to assist with the COVID-19 fight.

“South Africa has many public and private health specialists, family physicians, and epidemiologists who would have heeded the president’s call for assistance,” she said.

“Retired doctors can be brought back into the service delivery system – even for a short time.”

“Only when we have exhausted all our internal human resources should a consultative process been initiated to bring the Cuban specialists to South Africa,” said Coetzee.

Now read: More will die due to poverty than the coronavirus – Economist on lockdown system

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